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OU 160839 >m 



General Editor: 

S. N. DASGUPTA, C.I.E., M.A., PH.D. (CAL. et CANTAB.), 



Contributors to this Volume: 


(Preface, Introduction, History of A {arpfeara Literature and Editor's Notes) 

S. K. DE, M.A., D.LITT. (LOND.) 

( History of Kavya Literature ) 






1343B~-Jime, 1947 A. 





CONTENTS ... ... ... ... iii 

PREFACE ... ... ... ... v 


1. GENERAL REMARKS ... ... ... xiii-li 

Functions of the sutas sutas not repositories of 

heroic poetry ... ... ... xiii 

Artificiality not an indispensable character of 

Sanskrit Poetry ... ... ... xiv 

Identification of Kavya as "ornate poetry" untenable xv 

Alamkara in earlier literature ... ... xvi 

Direct evolution of classical style from the Vedic 

literature ... ... ... xvii 

Continuity of the Kavya literature ... xviii 
Literature in the first six hundred years of the 

Christian era ... ... ... xix 

Greater complexity of style in later times ... xix 
Some characteristics of Sanskrit poetry religio- 

social restrictions on sociefy ... ... xxi 

The development of the Dharma$dstra and the Srayti xxv 

Effect of patternisation of life on literature ... xxviii 

Varnasraraa ideals in Kalidasa ... ... xxx 

Restriction of the scope of free love ... ... xxxii 

Nature of the theme of subjects chosen ... xxxiv 

K&lidasa's treatment of love of romances ... xxxv 
The plot of the Sakuntald, and the view of Rabindra- 

nath . . . xxxvi 



Patternisation and insulation of Indian Society ... xxxviii 

Function of poetry ... ... ... xl 

Relieving features of Sanskrit poetry ... ... xli 

Transcendent object of literary art ... ... xli 

Aesthetic emotion ... ... ... xliii 

Concept of Indian drama ... ... ... xlvi 

The Mahdbharata and the Rdmdyana ... ... xlix 

The essence of Kavya as the heightened expression 

of experience ... ... H 


Choice of subjects Literature. and Life ... Hi 

Fashionable life in early India ... Iv 

Early academies ... ... ... Ivii 

Life at the time of Barm ... ... ... Iviii 

Gradual separation of city life from the life in the 

villages ... ... ... ... Ix 

Puranic legends the source of the plots of Kavya Ixii 

Love in Sanskrit poetry ... ... ... Ixiii 

Rasa and Rasabhasa ... ... ... Ixiv 

Growth of Indian civilisation from Vedic literature Ixv 

The characteristics of Indian temperament ... Ixvi 

Race peculiarities in the literature ... ... Ixviii 

The idea of dharma ... ... ... Ixxii 

Secular outlook and the doctrine of Trivarga ... Ixxiv 

Dramatic art ... ... ... ... Ixxvii 

Religious temperament and its effect on the choice 

of plots ... ... ... ... Ixxix 

Drama types and characteristics ... * ... Ixxxii 

The place of love in literature ... ... Ixxxix 

Patternising tendency of Indian culture ... xc 

Continuity of Indian culture ... ... tfciii 

Ideal of dharma in law and politics ... ... xcvi 

Types of literature ... ... ... xcix 

Political conditions and the early poetry ... c 


Little Greek influence on Indian culture and 

literature ... ... ... ciii 

Extension of Indian Empire up to Khotan and 

Afghanistan ... ... ... civ 

Literature at the time of Kaniska ... ... cv 

Rise of the Guptas ... ... ... cvii 

Fa Hien's evidence regarding India's social condi- 
tions and literature of the time ... ... cix 

Gupta civilisation and colonisation by Indians ... cxi 
Development of literature from the 7th to the 10th 

century ... ... ... cxiii 

Political and literary contact with the neighbouring 

countries ... ... ... cxv 

Political condition in India after Harsa ... cxvi 

General review of the growth of Sanskrit literature cxvii 

Literary Prakrt a standardised language ... cxx 

Was Sanskrit a spoken language ? ... ... cxxi 

Difficulties of appreciating Sanskrit poetry ... cxxv 


Nature in Sanskrit poetry ... ... cxxvi 



* 1. The Origin and Sources of the Kavya ... 1 
*^2. The Environment and Characteristics of the Kavya 18 

^ 3. The Origin and Characteristics of the Drama ... 42 


1. A^vaghosa and his School ... ... 69 

2. The Avadana Literature ... ... 81 

3. The Literature of Tale and Fable ... ... b3 

(a) The Pancatantra ... ... ... 86 

, (6) The Brhatkatha of Gunadhya ... ... 92 

4. The Dramas Ascribed to Bhasa ... ... 101 





1. The Erotic Satakas of Amaru and Bhartrhari ... 156 

2., The Stotra-Satakas of Bana, Mayura and others ... 166 

-^3. The Mahakavya from Bharavi to Magha ... 173 

W<z) Bharavi ... ... ... 177 

^(b) Bhatti ... ... ... 183 

*-{c) Kumaradasa ... ... ... 185 

v (d) Magha ... ... ... 188 

4. The Gnomic, Didactic and Satiric Poems ... 194 


1. The Prose Kavyas of Dandin, Subandhu and Bana 200 

^(a)-Dandin ... ... ... 207 

() Subandhu ... ... ... 217 

... ... ... 225 

2. The Dramas from Sudraka to Bhavabhuti ... 239 
-Aa) Sudraka ... ... ... 239 

(b) The Authors of the Gaturbbani and the Matta- 

vilasa ... ... ... 248 

M<0 Harsa ... ... ... 255 

(d) Vi^akhadatta , ... ... ... 262 

(e\ Bhattanarayan^ ... ... ... 27 1 

\jf) Bhavabhuti ... ... ... 277 

(g) Yasovarman, Mayuraja and others ... 298 


' 1. General Characteristics ... ... ... 304 

2 . The Mahakavya ... ... ... 316 

3. Poems with Historical Themes ... ... 345 

4. Shorter Poems 

(a) The Erotic Poetry ... ... ... 364 

(b) The Devotional Poetry ... ... 375 



(c) The Didactic and Satiric Poetry ... 398 

(d) The Anthologies and Women Poets ... 411 

5. Prose Literature ... ... 418 

(a) The Popular Tale ... ... ... 420 

(fc) The Prose Kavya ... ... ... 429 

(c) The Campu ... ... ... 433 


1. General Characteristics ... ... 441 

2. Murari and Rajasekhara ... ... 449 

3. Dramas with Legendary Themus and Comedies of 

Court-life ... ... ... 462 

4. Dramas of Middle-class Life and Plays of Semi- 

Historical Interest ... ... ... 474 

5. The Allegorical Drama ... ... ... 479 

6. Erotic and Farcical Plays ... ... 487 

7 . Dramas of an Irregular Type ... ... 501 



Vyakarana school and Alamkara school ... ... 513 

Alamkara-dastra its name ... ... ... 517 

Early Origin of the Alamkara ... ... 520 

Earlier Writers on Alamkara -^astra ... ... 525 

Udbhata ... ... ... ... 533 

Alamkara in the Agnipurana ... ... ... 538 

Auandavardhana, Dhvanikara and Abhinavagupta ... 5 JO 

Rajasekhara ... ... ... ... 546 

Bhattatauta ... ... ... ... 548 

Kuntaka ... ... ... ... 548 

Dhanafljaya : ... ... ... 550 



Mahimabhat^a ... ... ... ... 551 

Bbojadeva ... ... ... ... 552 

Ksemendra ... ... ... ... 554 

Mammata ... ... ... ... 556 

Buyyaka ... ... ... ... 55(> 

Vagbhatal ... ... ... ... 559 

Hemacandra ... ... ... ... 559 

Jayadeva ... ... ... ... 560 

Bhanudatta ... ... ... ... 561 

Vidyadhara ... ... ... ... 561 

Vidyanatha ... ... ... ... 562 

Vagbhata II ... ... ... ... 563 

Vigvanatha ... ... ... ... 563 

Ke6avami6ra ... ... ... ... 564 

Appaya Diksita ... ... ... ... 564 

Jagannatha ... ... ... ... 565 

Later minor writers ... ... ... 566 


Introductory ... ... ... ... 567 

Vakrokti ... ... ... ... 536 

Theory of Rasa ... ... ... ... 592 

Dhvani ... ... ... ... 004 



Some Earlier Writers ... ... ... 610 

Bhattikavya and other cognate Caritakavyas ... 614 

Sanskrit Drama ... ... ... ... 630 

Theory of the Greek Origin of the Indian Drama ... 650 

Sakas arid the Sanskrit Drama ... ... 654 

Buddhistic Dramas ..." ... ... 654 

Lyric Poetry ... ... '... ... 656 



Amaru^ataka ... ... ... ... 668 

Bhartrhari ... ... ... ... 669 

Gnomic Poetry ... ... ... ... 673 

Historical Kavyas ... ... ... r>76 

Prakrt ... ... ... ... 683 

Celebrated Writers of the Past Little Known now ... 685 

Gunadhya ... ... ... ... 687 

Pancatantra ... ... ... ... 696 

Bhasa and the Dramas assigned to him ... ... 708 

Kalidasa ... ... ... ... 728 

Subandhu ... ... ... ... 754 

Bana ... ... ... ... 755 

Sudraka ... ... ... ... 756 

Harsa the Dramatist ... ... ... 756 

ViSakhadatta ... ... ... ... 760 

Murari ... ... ... ... 760 

CaturbhanI ... ... ... ... 761 

Bhattanarayana ... ... ... ... 76*2 

Bhavabhuti ... ... ... ... 763 

Kumaradasa ... ... ... ... 763 

Nilakantha Diksita ... ... ... 764 

Mahendravikrama-vannan ... "... ... 765 

Venkatanatha ... ... ... ... 765 

Udayasundarl-kAtha ... ... 766 

Udayavarma-carita ... ... 766 

Kumarapala-pratibodha ... ... ... 767 

Kupaka-satka ... ... ... ... 768 

Partha-parakrama ... ... ... 769 

Nara-narayanananda ... ... ... 770 

Srinivasa-vilasa-campu ... ... ... 770 

Nalabhyudaya ... ... ... ... 771 

Katha-kautuka ... ... ... ... 771 

Eastraudha-vam^a ... ... ... 772 

Kamalim-kalahamsa ... ... ... 772 

B 1343B 



Acyutarayabhyudaya ... ... ... 772 

Anandakanda-catnpu ... ... ... 773 

Narayamya ... ... ... ... 774 

Bharata-carita, Gandraprabha-carita, Kavya-ratna 

and Bala-martanda-vijaya ... ... ... 775 


INDEX ... ... ... ... 777 


The first information regarding the existence of Sanskrit 
and the literature of the Upanisads was carried to the West by 
the Latin translation, by Anquebil Duperron, of the 50 Upanisads 
from the Persian translation of Dara Shiko which at once 
elicited the highest approbation of Schopenhauer. There was 
a time when it was openly doubted in Europe whether there was 
any genuine Sanskrit language and the distinguished English 
philosopher Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) in one of his papers 
described Sanskrit as a forgery of the .Brahmins. But the 
indefatigable work of Sir Wjlliam Jones, Colebrooke and others 
made Sanskrit known to the Western world. It was then recog- 
nised that the Sanskrit language with its old and modern 
descendants represents the easternmost branch of the Indo- 
Germanic Aryan stock of speech. Numerous special coincidences 
of language and mythology between the Vedic Aryans and the 
people of Iran also prove incontestably that these two members 
of the Indo-Germanic family must have lived in close connection 
for some considerable period after the others had separated from 

The origin of comparative philology dates from the time 
when European scholars became accurately acquainted with 
the ancient languages of India. Before this the classical scholars 
had been unable to determine the true relations between the then 
known languages of the Aryan stock. It is now almost univer- 
sally recognised that Sanskrit is the eldest daughter of the old 
mother-tongue of the Aryan people and probably the only 
surviving daughter. But none of the other six principal 
members of the family has left any literary monuments and 
their original features have to be reproduced as best as possible 
from the materials supplied by their own daughter-languages. 


Such is the case with regard to the Iranic, Hellenic, Italic, 
Celtic, Teutonic and Letto-Slavic languages. The oldest of the 
Indian speeches is to be found in the Rgveda. In the language 
of the Rgveda, one can trace a gradual and steady development 
of the language of the classical Sanskrit through the later 
Saipbitas, the Brahmanas and the Upanisads. The development^ 
however, is not as spontaneous as the modifications that are 
effected by popular speech. It has been controlled by tradition and 
grammatical studies. Changes in the speech of the upper classes 
are largely prevented by the sacred devotion to it and this was 
further supplemented by the work of the early grammarians, 
whose analytical skill far surpassed anything achieved in the 
West up till recent times. The Sanskrit grammarians tried 
as far as possible to remove irregularities and they hardly allowed 
any scope to new formations and this preserved to a very great 
extent the purity of the language and its well-ordered nature 
which would otherwise have been impossible. The conservative 
tendency of Indian literary culture, which we have tried to 
demonstrate in the field of the development of Sanskrit litera- 
ture in the Introduction, is remarkably manifested also in the 
permanent form that has been given to the Sanskrit language. 
The word samskrta means purified and well-ordered. By 150 
B.C., by the joint works of the 3 grammarians, Panini, 
Katyayana and Patanjali, the language attained a stereotyped 
form which remained the same throughout the centuries, though 
it remained the literary language of the people. It can hardly 
be doubted that though Panini recognised fully the Vedic accents 
and forms, yet in his time it was Sanskrit and not the older 
Vedic languages that were spoken. Yet Sanskrit cannot be 
regarded as an artificial creation of the grammarians, for its 
development from the Vedas through the Brahmanas and the 
Upanisads can be clearly traced. The Sanskrit language, which 
Panini calls bhasa, or speech, is closely akin to the language of 
the Upanisads and the Brahmanas. Though this bhasa Sanskrit 
is not so luxurious in form as the Vedic Sanskrit, yet there is 


no artificial symmetry and there is a profusion of nipatas or 
irregular forms which makes the study of Sanskrit so bewilder- 
ingly difficult to students. 

Sanskrit was indeed the language not only of Mvya or 
literature but of all the Indian sciences, and excepting the Pali 
of the Hmayana Buddhists and the Prakrt of the Jains, it was 
the only language in which the whole of India expressed all her 
best thoughts for the last 2 or 3 thousand years, and it has united 
the culture of India and given it a synchronous form in spite of 
general differences of popular speech, racial and geographical, 
economical and other differences. It is the one ground that has 
made it possible to develop the idea of Hindu nationhood in 
which kinship of culture plays the most important part. Under 
the shadow of one Vedic religion there had indeed developed 
many subsidiary religions, Saiva, Vaisaava, Sakta, etc., and 
within each of these, there had been many sects and sub-sects 
which have often emphasised the domestic quarrel, but in spite 
of it all there is a unity of religions among the Hindus, for the 
mother of all religious and secular culture had been Sanskrit. 

Variations from Sanskrit as determined by Panini, Katya- 
yana and Patanjali may occasionally be noticed in the Ramayana, 
the Mahdbharata and some of the other Puranas and Patanjal 
also noticed it when he said chandovat kavayah kurvanti and 
an early poet such as Kalidasa also sometimes indulges in such 
poetical licenses. Lesser poets who wrote inscriptions also often 
showed their inability to conform to the grammatical rules of 
Panini. But apart from this the Sanskrit language has not 
suffered any change in the course of ages. It must, however, be 
noted that the technical and non-Brahminical works sometimes 
reveal a laxity of Sanskrit speech and in the case of the early 
Buddhist writers there was an intentional disregard to the rules 
of Panini, probably in their effort towards the simplification of 
the Sanskrit language. The most notable example of this is the 
gatha language of the Lalitamstara and similar other works. 
Sometimes even later Brahminical works which tried to bring a 


halo of antiquity, often made lapses in order to force upon the 
people the imeprssion of their archaic nature as may be found in 
many of the Tanfcra works, or in the works of divination and 
incantation as found in the Bower manuscripts where there is 
ample evidence of Prakrtism and careless Sanskrit. Instances, 
however, are not rare where actual Prakrt forms were Sanskrit- 
ised. The incorporation of Dravidian and other words into 
Sanskrit has also been widely recognised. The words formed by 

the unadi suffix will supply innumerable instances of how current 


words gained a footing into the Sanskrit language and fanciful 
derivations were attempted to justify such uses. ' 

Not only in fairly early times was Prakrt used for the edicts 
and the prasastis but it was also used in writing poetical and 
prose kdvyas in later times. The word Prakrta is seldom used 
in early Sanskrit in the sense of a language. Its real meaning 
is ' original/ ' natural/ ' normal/ and it has been used in this 
sense in the Vedic literature in the Prdtitdkhyas and the 
Srautasutras and also in Patafijali's Mahabhasya. The word 
prdkrtamdnusa is used in the sense of ' an ordinary man ' or 
1 a man in the street.' Hernacandra says that Prakrta is so 
called because it has been derived from Sanskrit which i? 
the prakrti or source (prakrtih samskrtam tatra bhavam tata 
dgatanca prdkrtam). But there is another view as held by 
Pischel where the Prakrt is derived as ' coming from nature 
without any special instruction, i.e., the folk language. But it 
is impossible for us to decide in what way the Prakrt language 
grew. In the writings of the Prakrt grammarians and writers 
on Poetics, the term denotes a number of distinctly artificial 
dialects, which, as they stand now, could hardly have been 
spoken vernaculars. Sir George Grierson divides Prakrt into 
3 stages, first, the primary Prakrt, from which the Vedic language 
and Sanskrit were derived; second, secondary Prakrt, consisting 
of Pali, the Prakfts of the grammarians and literature and the 
Apabhram^as ; the third Prakrt consists of the modern verna- 
culars. But the inscriptions of A3oka show at least the existence 


of three dialects, the Eastern dialect of the capital which 
was the official lingua franca of the Empire, the North-western 
and the Western dialects. We next find the post-A3okan 
Prakrts in the inscriptions and the Prakrt of A^vaghosa of the 
1st century A.D. Here we find the old Ardha-magadhi, the old 
Sauraseni and the old MagadhL According to the current 
tradition the Jaina doctrines preached by Mahavira were 
delivered in Ardha-mlgadhi but the scriptures of the Svetambara 
Jainas chat are now available have been very much influenced 
by the Maharastri and the later texts were written in Jaina 
Maharastri, while the Digambara scriptures are in Sauraseni. 
The Pai^acI is also a form of Prakrt though only few books 
written in this dialect are now available. PaisacI was probably 
the language current in the Vindhya regiofi. The characteristics 
of the old Prakrts consist largely in the transformation of the 
vowels r and I, ai and au, and in the reduction of the sibilants and 
nasals with also other changes in consonants. Literature of a 
secular character might have been composed in old Praskrts until 
the 2nd century A.D. But about that date new changes were 
effected leading to the transformation of the old Prakrt to a new 
stage of development. This resulted in the formation of the 
Maharastri in the dominions of the Satavahanua in the South- 
west and the rise of the Magadh! and the Sauraseni, as may be 
noticed in the dramas of Bhasa and Asvaghosa on the one hand 
and Kalidasa on the other. By the '2nd century A. Q. we find 
the Maharastri lyric in the poems of Hala. The Maharastri 
Prakrt became important as the Prakrt of the dramas and of the 
epic poetry. The SaurasenT was but occasionally used in verse 
and sometimes in the dram.i. The SaurasenI is more closely 
allied to Sanskrit thin the Maharastri and it was generally used 
in dramas by men of good and noble position. The MagadhI 
on the other hand was reserved for people of low rank. The 
Natya-$astra speaks, however, of different types of Prakrt such as 
Daksinatya, Prdcya, Xvantl and Dhakkl, which are the different 
type* of the SaurasenI, though Candatt and Sakarl are types of 


the Magadhi. The Prakrt of the verses of the Natya-tastra need 
not be assumed to be the Prakrt of a different fype but it may 
well be regarded as a variant of the Sauraseni. The poetry of 
&aurasenl Prakrt is closely akin to the Maharastrl. A separate 
note has been added regarding the Apabhramsa, the importance 
of which for literary purposes may now be ignored. 

A few Histories of Sanskrit Literature, such as History 
of Sanskrit Literature (1860) by Maxmiiller, History of Indian 
Literature (1878) by Weber, Indiens Litteratur und Kultur (1887) 
by L. V. Schroeder, Literary History of India by Frazer, 
History of Sanskrit Literature (1900) by Macdonell, Die Litteratur 
des alien Indiens (1903) by Oldenberg, Les Litteratures de 
VInde (1904) by V. Henry, G-eschichte der Indischen Litteratur 
by Winternitz, Sanskrit Drama (1924), History of 
Sanskrit Literature (1928), as well as Classical Sanskrit 
Literature by Keith, and Geschichte der Sanskrit-philologie und 
Indischen Altertumskunde (1917, Vol. I and L920, Vol. II) 
by Windisch, have been written. Of these, Winternitz's work 
in three volumes seems to be the most comprehensive treatment. 
The Calcutta University had completed the English translation 
of the first two volumes under the supervision of Professor 
Winternitz himself. The English translation of Volume IIT 
had advanced a little when Professor Winternitz died. The 
Calcutta University had then entered into correspondence with 
some European scholars about the supervision of the translation 
of Volume III. This correspondence having failed, I was 
approached by the University to undertake the work and 
it was proposed by me that as the translation of Volume III had 
only advanced but little, it would be better to plan another work 
dealing with the subjects that form the content of Volume III 
of Professor Winternitz's work. It was also felt necessary that 
the title of the book, as it appeared in Professor Winternitz's 
work, History of Indian Literature, should be changed to History 
of Sanskrit Literature , as " Indian Literature " is too vast a 
subject to be taken up as a sort of appendage to the history of 


Sanskrit literature, as Prof. Winternitz had done. As my 
hands at the time were too full with other works, it was arranged 
that under my chief editorship within an Editorial Board the 
work should be done by subscription by the scholars of Bengal. 
Volume I deals with Kavya and Alamkara and Volume II is 
expected to deal with other Technical Sciences. In Volume I f 
I had the good fortune to get the co-operation of Prof. Dr. S. K. 
Da in writing out the portion on Kavya. But for his valuable 
scholarly assistance and promptness of execution the publication 
of Volume 1 might have been long delayed. I have tried to 
supplement Prof. De's treatment with an Introduction and 
additional Editorial Notes and it is expected that these may also 
prove helpful to students. Our indebtedness to Prof. Wjnternitz's 
German Edition, Vol. Ill, and Prof. Keith's works, as well as to 
other Western and Indian scholars, cannot be exaggerated. For 
want of space it was not possible to go into greater details 
regarding the Alamkara-Sastra, but I hope that what appears 
there may be deemed sufficient for a general history of Sanskrit 
literature. The Introduction is intended to give a proper 
perspective for reviewing the history of Sanskrit literature in its 
background of racial, social and historical environment, an 
appreciation of which I consider essential for grasping the 
significance of the Sanskrit literary culture. 

It is to be regretted that some of the contributions, such as 
those on the Historical Kavyas, or the elements of literature in 
the Inscriptions, or the Prakrt literature, could not be incorporat- 
ed in the present volume l though these should have been included 
here. This was due to the fact that those contributions were 
not received in time. It is expected, however, that these will 
appear in Volume II. la the meanwhile, both in the body of 
the book and in the Editorial Notes some general estimates have 
been taken of these, though very little has been said about the 
elements of literature in Inscriptions. 

By way of confession of a hasty observation in the Alamkara 
section that the Latin word aurum may be connected with the 

B(l) 1343B 

word alam in Sanskrit I beg to point out that since that section 
has been printed, an eminent philologist has assured me that 
neither aurum is Latin nor can it be philologically connected with 
alam in Sanskrit. 

In conclusion, I like to express my thanks to Mr. Krishna- 
gopal Goswami, Sastri, M.A.," P.R.S., Smriti-Mimansa-Tirtha, 
Lecturer in the Post-Graduate Department of Sanskrit of the 
University of Calcutta, who has kindly prepared a list of contents 
aad a detailed Index for this volume. 



Since on account of circumstances over which there was no 
control the publication has been unusually delayed for nearly six 
years, I owe an apology for my inability in bringing the work 
up to date. 

University of Dacca, ) __ 

1948. 5 S. K. DE. 


Winternitz, in Vol. Ill of bis History of 
Indian Literature , German Edition, speaks of "the 
Sutas as the representatives of the old heroic poetry 
who lived in the court of the princes and sang to extol 
them. They also went forth to battle so as to be 
able to sing of the heroic deeds of the warriors from 
their own observation. These court bards stood 
closer to the warriors than to the learned Brahmins. 
They also acted as charioteers of the warriors 
in their campaigns and took part in their martial 

But Winternitz does not give any reference 
from which he draws his views about the suta as the 
traditional keeper of heroic poetry. The siiia occurs 
along with the rathakara and karmara in the AtJiarva 
Veda III, 5, 6, 7. We find reference to this suta in 
Gautama (IV. 15), Baudhayana (10, I. 9. 9.), VaSistha 
(XVIII. 6), Mann (X. II), Visnu Dh. S. (XVI. 6), 
Yaj. (I. 3.), and the Suta-samhita, where he appears as 
a pratiloma caste born of a Ksattriya male and a 
Brahmin female. Kautilya says in his Arthasastra 
(III. 7) that Romaharsana, called also Suta in 
the Puranas, was not born out of a pratiloma 
marriage. The suta has been referred to as sacred in 
the Visnupurana and the Agnipurana. The duty of 
the sutas according to Manu (X. 47) was to drive 
chariots and according to the Vaikhanasa-smarta-sutra 
(X. 13) it was a part of his livelihood to remind the 
king of his duties and cook food for him. According to 
Karnaparva (XXXII, 46. 47), Sutas were the servants 

of the sat as 

accord ing to 


Sutas were 
not repOBi- 
t o r i e a of 


(paricdrakas) of the Ksattriyas. According to Vayu- 
purdna (Ch. I.), the Sutas used to preserve the 
pedigrees of kings and great men and also the traditions 
of learning and books. But nowhere do we find 
that Sutas had any other work than those said 
above or that they ever played the part of a bard 
reciting the glories of the kings or were in any 
sense the depository of heroic poetry. His chief duty 
was the taming of elephants* driving chariots and 
riding horses. The difference between suta and ratha- 
kdra is that the former was born from Ksattriya male 
and Brahmin female in wedlock, the other out of 
wedlock through clandestine union. 
Artificiality rjij ie theory that these bards were gradually 

not an in- ^ * 

dispensable superseded by erudite poets also demands confirmation. 

character \ J L 

of Sanskrit It is also doubtful to affirm that the poets always 
described fights and battles from hearsay. Judging 
from the Mahabharata and the state of events given in 
it in terms of tithis and naksatras which synchronise 
throughout the whole book, one should think that there 
were either dated notes of events or that the poets 
themselves according to some definite traditions syn- 
chronised the dates. Again, we know so little of the 
earlier poetry that we have no right to say that in 
earlier poetry greater stress was laid to form and erudi- 
tion. The artificial poetry began at a much later date, 
from the 6th or the 7th century. Neither in the 
Rdmdyana nor in the Mahabharata do we find any 
influence of artificiality. Whatever may have been said 
in the Tantrdkhydyikd (1.321), the Mahabharata is 
regarded as an itihasa, and seldom regarded as a kdvya 
which place is assigned to the Rdmdyana. It is also 
doubtful (at least there is hardly any evidence) that th$ 
panegyrics were the first thing of kdvya. It is also 
wrong to hold thatthe Kdvya style means an ornate style. 



At least none of the rhetoricians hold this view and 
there is hardly any evidence in its favour. Winternitz, 
therefore, is entirely wrong when he says, " The more 
strenuous the effort of the poet, the more ' ornate ' his 
expressions, and the more difficult his work of art, the 
more did the prince feel flattered by it." The earliest 
Sanskrit rhetorician Bhamaha holds a different view 
regarding kdvya. He says that even if kdvya requires P etr y 
explanatory interpretation like a Sdstra, then it would 
indeed be a matter of great regret for the common man. 
This signifies that at least Bhamaha thought that kdvya 
should be written in such a manner that it should be 
intelligible to all. He says further that there are 
indeed different types of style but it is only that type 
of style which is intelligible to the ignorant, to women 
and children, that is sweet. Thus, in II. 1-3, he 
says : mddhuryam abhivdnchantah prasddam ca sume- 
dhasah \ xamdsavanti bhuydmsi na paddni prayunjate II 
kecidojo'bhidhitsantah samasyanti bahunyapi II travyam 
ndtisamastdrtham kdvyam madhuramisyate \ cividva- 
dahgandbdlapratitdrtham prasddavat II 

It should be noted that this opinion of Bhamaha is 
based upon the study of previous good poetry and the 
opinions of other poets. Thus, he says in the colophon 
of his work : 

avalokya matdni satkavlndm avagamya svadhiyd ca 
kdvyalaksma \ 

sujandvagamdya bhdmahena grathitam rakrilagomi- 
sununedam \ 

This opinion may be confirmed by reference to 
the -writings of other rhetoricians who followed 
Bhamaha. It is a pity that Winternitz should have 
such an unfounded and uncharitable opinion of Indian 
poetry. It is also difficult to imagine why Winternitz 

t i o n of 
K i v y a as 
p o el r y " 



view of 


should render kavya as ornate poetry, which he defines 
as that in which "the poet makes it his highest ambi- 
tion to astonish his readers or hearers by as numerous, 
as original and as elaborate similes as possible/ 1 His 
remarks about ornate poetry apply only to the poets of 
a degenerate time, when the true ideals of real poetry 
was lost sight of and when the poets had to pose 
themselves as great pundits. It is no doubt true that 
many of the famous poets like Bhatti, Magha or Sri- 
harsa follow the worst standard of artificial poetry and 
indeed Bhatti boasts that his kavya is such that it is 
not intelligible without explanation ; yet it must be 
pointed out that this was not the opinion of the critics 
of literature and that for that reason kavya style should 
not be confounded with artificiality. During the period 
that many of these poets flourished there was such an 
ascendancy of the scholarly philosophers, that the poets 
often thought that learning was greater than poetry 
and they tried to pose their learning through their 
poetry. But I do not see how a poet like Asvaghosa 
can be regarded as a representative of ornate poetry 
in the same sense in which Mahaksattrapa Rudra- 
daman's inscription-texts can be regarded as ornate. 

Prof. Winternitz contended that to know of the 
origin of ornate poetry we must know the origin of the 
Alamkara literature and he seems to imply that that type 
of literature may be called ornate in which an acquaint- 
ance with the Alamkara literature or its principles may 
be presupposed. He held further that surely Valmlki 
did not as yet know any manual of poetics. But what 
is the reason for such an assurance ? We know that 
upamas were well-known even in Vedic times and 
Yaska deals with upama in a fairly systematic manner. 
Panini also seems to be fairly acquainted with some of 
the fundamental types of upama. We have also reasons 



to believe that the alamkara type of thought had its 
origin in the Vyakarana school. We do not also know 
that there were no treatises of alamkara written before 

The comments that have been made above will show 
that the theory of ornate poetry (kunstdichtung) is beset 
with many difficulties. Though it is needless to trace 
the origin of Sanskrit Kavyas to the Vedas or the 
Brahmanas, it cannot be decided that some of the early 
Upanisads like the Katha, Mundaka and the fivetdtva- 
tara contain verses in the classical style. Indeed the 
style of the Mahabharata and the Gita may be regarded 
as the prolongation of the classical style which had 
begun already at the time of the Upanisads. Among 
the early literature the Kamayana and the Mahabharata 
(though the latter is called itihasa) must be regarded as 
the earliest literature of the Kavya form that is available 
to us. Rhetoricians in a much later time have quoted 
verses from the Mahabharata to demonstrate the theory 
of pyanjana and (junibhtita-ryanjana. 1 Though there 
is a difference of atmosphere in the Mahabharata 
which lays greater stress on the practical problems 
of life and conflict of ideals, yet the atmosphere of 
Rdmdyana is not far removed from that of Kalidasa. 
As Dr. De has shown, we can hardly trace the origin 
of Sanskrit Kavyas to Prakrt sources. It has also 
been pointed out by Dr. De that the theory of 
Renaissance of Sanskrit Kavya in the 5th or 6th 
century A.D., as proposed by Maxmiiller, cannot 
properly be supported. It is true that no extant 

Birect evo- 
lution of 
the classical 
style from 
the Vcdic 

The theory 
of the Re- 
of Sioskrit 

1 See Mahabharata, Striparva, Chap. XXIV, verse 17.'* ay am sa rasanot- 
karsl, etc." Also, Santtparva Apad lharma, Chap. 153, verses 11 and 1'2. 
These have bien referred to in tlie Kdvyapraktita, Chip. V, verses 45 and 46, 
as examples of gnnibhuta vyahgya, and Chap. IV, as example of prabandha 

C 1843B 



of the Kavya 

of the Kavya 

kavyas of any importance are available before A6va- 
ghosa. But there are plenty of references scattered 
over which suggest the existence of 'a fairly good field 
of Kfwya literature during the 5th to the 1st century 
B.C. Even Panini is said to have written a work 
called Jambavatlvijaya and Pataujali refers to a kdvya 
by Vararuci. 

Patanjali also refers to three akhyayikas, Vasava- 
datta, Sumanottara, and Bhaimarathl, and two dramas 
called Kamsabadha and Balibandha. He also quotes a 
number of verses from which the continuity is apparent. 
Lalitavistara also mentions Mvya-Mrana as a subject 
which was studied by Buddha. These and various other 
reasons adduced in the text show fairly conclusively the 
existence of Kavya literature from the 2nd century B.C. 
to the 2nd century A.D. It has already been noticed 
that many of the verses of the Upanisads may well 
have been included in a classical work of Mvya in later 
times. But most of the literature has now been lost. 

Avaghosa's Kavya as well as Kudradamana's 
inscriptions show an acquaintance with the principles 
of alamkara. The Prakrt inscriptions of the first two 
centuries of the Christian era as well as many texts of 
the Buddhists or the verses later found in the Pali 
Jatakas all reveal the fact that they were written on 
the model of Sanskrit writings of their time. The 
writings of Matrceta, Kumaralata, Arya-6ura, so far as 
they have been recovered, and the verses that are found 
in the Camka-samhita also confirm the view that the 
Kavya style was flourishing at the time and this could 
not have been the case if there were no poetical 
texts at the time. There is also reason to believe that 
erotics, dramaturgy, the art of dancing and singing 
were all keeping pace with the literary development of 
the time. 



But definite dates of the poets in the history of Indian 
literature are difficult to be got. The Aihole inscription 
of 634 A.I), mentions the names of Kalidasa and 
Bbaravi and we know that Bana flourished in the 
7th century A.D. They are the two fixed landmarks 
in the early chronology of Sanskrit poets. The 
testimony of Bana as well as the other references 
that we find of the existence of many poets at the 
time prove fairly conclusively that the 4th and 5th 
centuries may be regarded as a very prominent period 
of literary production. This gets further confirmation 
from the evidence of inscriptions which are written in 
a fine literary style. Already from the evidence of 
Bhamaha we know that many writers on alamkara had 
flourished before him and that he had drawn on them 
in the composition of his work. The panegyric of 
Samudragupta by Harisena (about 350 A.D.) may be 
taken as a typical case. 

But from the Oth century onwards we find that the 
poets often manifest a tendency for display of learning 
and scholarship and skill in the manipulation of Mords 
and verbosity and a studied use of alamkaras. We know 
that in the 4th century Yasubandhu had written his 
Abhidharmakosa. in this great work he mercilessly 
criticised not only other schools of Buddhism but also 
the Hindu schools of philosophy, such as Samkhya, 
Vaisesika and the like. Dinnaga and Vatsyayana 
flourished about the 5th century A.D. and from this 
time onward the quarrel of the philosophers and learned 
scholars of divergent schools began to grow into such 
importance that it practically influenced every other 
department of thought. The old simplicity of style 
which we find in Patanjali and Savara had now 
disappeared. Saiikara and Jayanta who flourished 
probably in the 7th and 9lh century are indeed noble 

in the first 
six hundred 
years of the 

of style in 
later times 
from sim. 
plicity to 


exceptions, but even then the difference between their 
style and that of Patanjali and Savara, is indeed very 
great. Learning appealed to people more than poetic 
freshness. We can well imagine that when most of 
the great poets flourished in the court-atmosphere 
where great scholars came and showed their skill in 
debate and wrangle, learning and scholarship was 
more appreciated than pure fancy of poetry. Rabindra- 
nath draws a fine picture of such a situation in which 
he depicts the misfortune of the poet Sekhara. 
Learning ^ r - De has in a very impressive manner described 

the court atmosphere and how it left its mark on 
Sanskrit poetry. As a result of the particular demand 
in the court atmosphere the natural spontaneity of the 
poet was at a discount. The learning and adaptation 
to circumstances was given more importance than the 
pure flow of genius. Thus, Mammata, the celebrated 
rhetorician in discussing the nature of poetic powers 
say? that poetic power is the skill that is derived by 
a study of human behaviour, learning, familiarity with 
literature, history and the like, training taken from one 
who understands literature and exercise. 1 There was 
the other important thing for a court poet that he 
should be a vidagdha or possess the court culture, and 
Dandin also says that even if the natural powers be 
slender, one may make himself suitable for the company 
of the vidagdha through constant practice. This shows 
that learning and exercise were given a greater place of 
importance than the natural spontaneity of poetic 
genius. As a result of this Sanskrit poetry not only 
became artificial but followed a traditional scheme of 
description and an adaptation of things. The magic 
of the Sanskrit language, the sonorousness of its word- 

loka&strakSvjSdyavekgaQit I 
Hi hetusladudbhave II 



jingle also led the poets astray and led them to find their 
amusement in verbal sonorousness. But whatever may 
be said against long compounds and punsjt^cannot also 
be denied that the Sanskrit language has the special 
genius of showing its grandeur and majesty through 
a noble gait. An Arab horse may be more swift 
and effective for all practical purposes but a well-adorned 
elephant of a high size has a grace in its movement 
which cannot be rivalled by a horse. These long 
compounds even in prose give such a natural swing 
when supplemented with the puns and produce an exhil- 
aration which, though may not be exactly of the poetic 
type, has yet its place in the aesthetic atmosphere 
which is well illustrated in the writings of Bana and 
in many inscriptions. 

The sloka form in which the Sanskrit Kavyas are 
generally written renders the whole representation into 
little fragmentary pictures which stand independently 
by themselves and this often prevents the development 
of a joint effect as a unitary whole. The story or the 
plot becomes of a secondary interest and thejuain atten- 
tion of the reader is drawn to the poetical effusions of 
the writer as expressed in little pictures. It is curious 
also to notice that excepting a few poets of the type of 
Bhavabhiiti, the rugged, the noble and the forceful 
elements of our sentiments or of the natural objects 
could hardly be dealt with success. Even Kalidasa 
failed in his description of sublime and sombre scenes. 
His description of the lamentation of Eati at the death 
of Madana in the Kuniarasambhava has no tragic effect 
on us and it seems to be merely the amorous sentiment 
twisted upside down. 

In studying the literature of a country, we cannot 
very well take out of our consideration a general cultural 
history of its people. The Aryans after their migration 

Some cba- 
of Sanskrit, 

social res- 
trictions on 


to India bad come to live in a country peopled by 
aliens having a culture far below their own (excepting 
probably the Dravidians) whose cultural and other 
tastes were entirely different. The great problem 
before them was the problem of the fusion of 
races. It was the main concern of the leaders of 
society to protect the purity of the race, its culture and 
religion as far as possible. They initiated the system 
of varnasrama and enunciated rigorous regulations for 
the respective duties of the four varnas. There is 
ample evidence in the Smrtis that inspite of the 
rigorous regulations, these were often violated and as 
time passed on, rigours increased. Thus marriage with 
girls of lower varnas which was allowed at one stage 
was entirely stopped in later times. There is, however, 
evidence to show that marriages took place not only 
with the girls of lower varnas but many kings had 
devoted Greek wives. But still the problem of fusion 
of races gradually increased when the Huns, the 
Scythians and the Greeks not only entered the country 
and lived there but became Hinduised. So long as 
many rulers of the country were given to military 
adventures and the people as a whole entered into 
commercial negotiations and intercourses with different 
countries and established settlements in different lands 
the balance or the equilibrium of society had a 
dynamic vigour in it. Intercourse with other people 
stagnating on equal terms expanded the mental vista, but when, 

effect of the ^ f . 

rigorous for reasons unknown, there came a period of stagnation 
of smrti. and people became more or less narrow and provincial, 
they lacked vigour and energy of free thought. In 
society the rigour of social rules increased, and people 
followed these rules inspite of the fact that obedience to 
such rules was in direct contradiction to the professed 
systems of philosophy. Philosophy became divested of 


social life and whatever divergence there might have 
been in the philosophical speculations of different sects 
and communities they became equally loyal to the 
same smrti laws. v When the smdrta followed the 
injunctions of smrti on the belief that they all ema- 
nated from the Vedas, the Vaisriava followed the 
same smrti rules on the ground that they were the 
command meats of God. The maxim of the Mlmdmsd 
was that no smrti laws would have any validity if 
they are not supported by the Vedas. But there were 
really many smrti laws about which no evidence could 
be found in the Vedas. The legal fiction was invented 
that where corroborative Vedic texts were not available, 
one should suppose that they existed but were lost. The 
whole effort was suicidal. It denied in principle the 
normal human fact that society is a human institution. 
With the change of condition and circumstances, 
material wants and means of production and external 
influences of diverse kinds, man must change and with 
the change of man, the social institutions, duties and 
obligations must also change. The attempt to bind 
with iron chains all movements of society, so that these 
must adapt themselves to the conditions that prevailed 
in Vedic times, was like the attempt of the Chinese to 
make the feet of the ladies manacled in iron shoes, so 
that when the lady grew to the adult age, her feet 
should remain like those of a baby. This extreme 
conservatism of social laws had an extremely depressive 
effect as regards the freedom of mind and it enslaved 
the temper of the mind and habituated it to respect the 
older traditions at the expense of common sense and 
wisdom. The elasticity of mind that we find in the 
Mahdbharata soon disappeared and people got themselves 
accustomed to think in terms invented for them by their 
predecessors. Yet it is not true that they were always 


faithful and loyal to the customs of Vedic times* Any 
Brahmin or community of Brahmins of influence could 
make a smrti law which proved binding to successive 
generations of people. This may be illustrated by the 
case of beef-eating. Beef-eating is a recognised Vedic 
custom and even to-day when marriage ceremonies are 
performed, there is a particular mantra which signifies 
that a cow has been brought for the feast of the bride- 
groom and the bride-groom replies out of pity that the 
cow need not be butchered for his gratification. But 
yet according to the later smrti, cow-killing or beef- 
eating is regarded as one of the major crimes. Again, 
while sea-voyage was allowed in ancient times and 
therefore had the sanction of the Vedic literature, it ha.* 
..been prohibited by the later smrti. The list of kali- 
varjyas may all be taken as instances of drawing up a 
tighter noose at the neck of the society. Thus, there was 
not merely the convenient fiction on behalf of the .smrti 
but even injunctions that were distinctly opposed to the 
older Vedic practices, which were forced upon the people 
by the later codifiers of smrti for the guidance of society. 
It is difficult to understand how the injunctions of the 
smrti writers derived any authoritative value. Probably 
in some cases many older instances had gone out of 
practice or become repugnant to the people, or that the 
codification of some smrti writers might have had the 
backing-of a ruling prince and was for the matter of that 
held sacred in his kingdom. But it may also have been 
that some smrti writers had risen to great eminence 
and authority and by virtue of the peoples' confidence 
in him, his decisions became authoritative. In the case 
of Raghunandana, who lived in Navadwipa about 500 
years ago, we find that either by personal influence or by 
propaganda he succeeded in making his views and inter- 
pretation stand supreme in Bengal in preference to the 


Views of older smrti authorities like Yajnavalkya or 

Dharmaastras were probably in existence before 
Yaska, but the important Dharmatastras of Gautama, the 

' _ r * sattra and 

Baudhayana and Apastamba probably flourished bet- 
ween 600 and 300 B.C. Before the Dharmagastras or 
the Dharmasutras we have the Grhyasutras. The 
Hiranyakei Dharmasulras were probably written some- 
times about the 4th century A.D. The Va&stha 
Dharmasutra was probably in existence in the 1st or the 
2nd century of the Christian era. The Visnu Dharma- 
sutra had probably an earlier beginning, but was 
thoroughly recast in the 8th or the 9th century A.D. The 
Harita was probably written somewhere about the 5th 
century A.D. The versified tiahkha is probably a 
work of later date though it may have had an earlier 
version. We have then the smrtis of Atri, U6anas, 
Kanva, Kagyapa, Gargya, Cyavana, Jatukarna, Pai- 
thlnasi, Brhaspati, Bharadvaja, Satatapa, Sumanta, of 
which the dates are uncertain. But most of the 
smrtis other than the older ones were written* during 
the period 400 to 1000 A.D. In ancient times the 
number of smrtis must have been very small and the 
extent of limitations imposed by them were also not so 
great. Thus, Baudhayana speaks only of Aupajangham, 
Katya, Kagyapa, Gautama, Prajapati, Maudgalya, 
Harita. Vasistha mentions only Gautama, Prajapati, 
Manu, Yama and Harita. Apastamba mentions ten. 
Manu speaks of only six besides himself, such as, Atri. 
Bbrgu, Vasistha, Vaikhanasa and Saunaka. But in all 
their works the writers are mentioned only casually and 
there is no regular enumeration of writers on Dharma in 
one place. Yajnavalkya is probably the earliest writer 
who enumerated twenty expounders of Dharma. Kuma- 
rila who flourished in the 7th and the 8th century speaks 

D 1843B 


of 18 Dharma Samhitas. We have then the 24 Dharmd 
Samhitas which in addition to Yajnavalkya's list 
contains 6 more. There is another smrti called 
Sattrimhnmata quoted by Mitdksara which contains 
36 smrtis. The Vrddhagautama Smrti gives a list of 57 
dharma-sastras and the Prayoga-parijata gives a list of 
18 principal smrtis, 18 upasmrtis and 21 smrtikdras. The 
Later Smrtis Nirnayasmdhu and the Mayu hh a of Nllakantha gives a 
list of 100 smrtis. Thus as time advanced the number 
of smrti authorities increased and there was gradually 
more and more tightening. TheManusmrti had probably 
attained its present form by the 2nd century A.D. and 
the Ydjflavalkyasmrti was probably composed in the 3rd 
oHth century A.D. We find that though the smrtis had 
begun at an early date and were supposed to have been 
based upon Vedic injunctions and customs, yet new 
smrti authorities sprang up giving new injunctions 
which can hardly be traced to Vedic authorities. Many 
of the older authorities were again and again revised to 
harmonise the changes made and these revised editions 
passed off as the old ones as there was no critical 
apparatus of research for distinguishing the new from 
the old. 

The Puranas also indulged in the accretions of the 
many materials of the Dharma-tdstra. From the 10th 
century onwards we have a host of commentators of 
smrtis and writers of digests or nibandhas of smrtis. A 
peep into the smrtiastras and nibandhas of later times 
shows that there was a regular attempt to bind together 
all possible actions of men of different castes of 
society by rtgorous rules of smrtis. Such an attempt 
naturally has its repercussions on the mental freedom 
and spontaneity of the mind of the people. 

This tendency may also be illustrated by a reference 
to the development of the philosophical literature. 



It is curious, however, to note that though the Indian 
systems of philosophy diverged so diametrically from 
one another, they all professed to be loyal inter- 
preters of the Upanisads. Saiikara'sown interpretation 
of the Upanisads consists chiefly in showing the purport 
of the Upanisads as condensed in the sutras. The 
Brahmasutra itself says that there is no end to logical 
discussions and arguments and no finality can be 
reached by logical and philosophical debates. It is 
always possible to employ keener and keener weapons of 
subtle logic to destroy the older views. The scope and 
area of the application of logic must always be limited 
by the textual testimony of the Upanisads, which alone 
is the repository of wisdom. It is curious to note that 
the same Upanisadic text has been interpreted by some 
writers as rank nihilism, by others as absolutism and by 
others again as implying dualism, pluralism or theism. 
But the spirit was still there that the highest wisdom 
and truth are only available in the Upanisadic thought. 
So great has been the hold of the Upanisads on the 
Indian mind that even after centuries of contact with 
the Western world, its science and philosophy, Indian 
mind has not been able to shake off the tight hold of 
the Upanisads on its thought. The late poerTagore, 
who happened to be probably the greatest poet and 
thinker of our age, drew most of his inspiration and 
ideas from the Upanisads. In all his writings he largely 
expanded the Upanisadic thought assimilating with it 
some of the important tendencies of Western biology 
and philosophy, but always referring to* Upanisads or 
interpreting them in that light for final corroboration. 

The collapse of the Indian genius in formalistic lines 
and in artificiality in social customs, behaviours and 
actions, in philosophy and in art, is naturally reflected 
in the development of the Sanskrit literature of a later 

Loyalty to 
the past, the 
chief cha- 
racteristic of 



The tight- 
ening grip 
of the Smrtis 
freedom of 
and pat- 

Its effect 
on literature. 

age. In the earlier age also the reverence for the past 
had always its influence on the genius of the poets of 
succeeding ages. It may be presumed that the court 
atmosphere of the Hindu kings was always dominated 
by a regard for the Hindu Dharmatastras as it was also 
the general attitude of the people. This tightening of 
the grip on the mind to follow the past was so much 
impressed upon the people that when after an age the 
poetical practice was established, the rhetoricians 
recorded this practice and made it a pattern for all kinds 
of literature. Just as the various writers on Smrti had 
tried to record the customary practice and behaviour of 
all the daily actions of all class of people, so the rhetori- 
cians also recorded the practice of the past poets and 
this served as a pattern or guide for the poets of 
succeeding generations. 

When we read the works on rhetoric by Bhamaba, 
Dandin, Vamana, Udbhata and Rudrata, and other 
writers of earlier times, we find discussions on Kavya 
of a structural nature. They discuss what constitutes 
the essence of Kavya, the nature of adornments, the 
relative importance^of the style, the adornment and the 
like, or whether or not suggestivity or rousing of senti- 
ments should be regarded as being of primary impor- 
tance in good literature. But seldom do we find an 
enumeration regarding requirements of the various 
kinds of poetry, mahakavya, khanda-kavya, etc., or a 
detailed description of the patterns of the different kinds 
- of characters of heroes and heroines, or an enumeration 
of the subjects that have or have not to be described in 
works of poetry. These patterns, when enumerated by 
the rhetoricians, become patterns of poetic behaviour 
which must be followed by the poets and loyalty to 
these patterns became often the criteria of good or bad 
poetry, just as the patterns of conduct recorded in the 



Smrti-tiastras became the criteria of good or bad conduct 
of the people. 

It must also be noted that as the number of injunc- 
tions increased and as the Smrti-$astra demanded a 
complete patternisation of the conduct of all sections of 
people, freedom of life and behaviour gradually began 
to disappear. In whatever community or clan of people 
one may have had a chance of enquiring into, one 
would find the same pattern of behaviour as was 
running through the ages. It was an attempt towards a 
mummification of social life from which all novelty was 
gone. Even if there was anywhere any violation of 
the pattern, the poet could hardly utilise it without 
shocking the sense of decorum and religious taste of the 
people. Thus, the poet had hardly any field of new 
experience. The freer life of older limes became gradu- 
ally encased within the iron casings of the laws of 
smrti. Thus Kalidasa in describing his ideal king 
Dillpa, says that his subjects did not deviate even by a 
line from the course that was followed from the time of 
Manu. It is thus easy to say that when life is un- 
changeably patternised and there is no freedom and 
spontaneity or change or variety in life, poetry cannot 
reflect any new problems of life and necessarily it must 
follow artificial patterns which had been current 
through centuries. This was further enhanced by the 
fact that the same tendency of working after a pattern 
out of a reverence for the past also intellectually com- 
pelled the poet to look for the pattern of his work to 
earlier poets or to generalisations made from them as 
recorded in the Alamkara literature. I* wish to affirm 
here that the reason why the earlier Sanskrit literature 
like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and the works 
of Sudraka, Bhasa, etc., are more human, and the reason 
why poets of a later period became gradually more and 

sation of 
life explains 
choice of 



Kalidasa a 

more artificial, is largely due to the stagnation of society 
and social life. Kalidasa, however, may be taken as an 
exception, but it seems that in his time the ideal of old 
varnaframa-dharma seemed still to inspiie the ideal of 
the people. For this reason in two of his works, 
Raghuvamsa and Abhijftana-talmntala he had taken 
a theme of antiquity and of history. Thus in Raghu- 
vamsa, which is a history of the kings of Kagbu race, 
he seems to have invented many episodes of the kings 
of the past about whom practically no record is avail- 
able in Valmiki. It is curious to note, however, that 
though he practically passed off the scenes of Rama's 
life depicted by Valmiki, yet he expressed his gratitude 
to him to the extent of comparing his work as being 
merely of the type of passing a thread through pearls 
through which holes have already been made by 
Valmiki. Now, what may be the secret of Kalidasa's 
feeling of gratefulness? 

.Now it seems to me that Dillpa, Kaghu, Aja, 
Dasaratha and Ramacandra are really the pivotal 
characters of Raghuvamsa. If we take the lives of 
them all and roll them up into one, we can very well have 
a faithful picture of an ideal king, who is devoted to the 
rules of varnasrama-dharma . Throughout the Ramayana, 
in the character of Kama, beginning from the episode 
of his marriage to the killing of Sambuka, we have the 
picture of such a king, who is loyal to his father, 
loyal to his people, who marries for progeny, shows 
heroism by conquest and carries the fruits of civilisation 
to other~countries. What Kalidasa meant by threading 
the pearls is that he has really rolled up into one the 
great ideas of Valmiki and manifested them in the 
character of different kings beginning from Dillpa. His 
success with these two Kavyas was largely due to his 
natural genius and also because the thing he took up 


was hallowed with the glory of the past. In Sakuntala 
he staged his theme in a fairly supernormal manner, love. 
It was a prolongation of earth to heaven and as such 
it was not normal or natural. We find here also the 
same loyalty on the part of the king to varmframa- 
dharma and the romance with Sakuntala was also not 
clearly of the ordinary social order. Sakuntala was the 
daughter on the one hand of Vigvamitra and on the 
other, of Manuka, of an -ascetic Ksattriya and a heavenly 
nymph. As such the love was not unsocial. In the 
other drama Vikrarnorvasl also, he availed himself of a 
Yedic story and described the love of the king with a 
heavenly nymph. Had Kalidasa been a modern man, 
he should have probably staged his drama in a 
different manner. Believer as he was in some amount 
of free love, the social conditions did not allow him to 
depict it otherwise than with an Apsara. According to 
the older smrtis and traditions available to us, we find 
that a love affair with a courtesan's daughter was 
thoroughly allowable in social practice. In the third 
love affair described by Kalidasa, he takes a Yaksa and 
his wife. In the fourth love affair in Malavikagnimitra, 
which was his maiden work, he was not so daring and 
took opportunity of the fact that it was the constant 
practice of the kings to have more than one wife. 
In that case also, Malavikfi was also a princess. She 
was brought in the family by circumstances of an un- 
natural character and though the queen had protected 
her from the sight of the king, he accidentally saw her 
portrait and gradually fell into love with her. The 
parivrajika performed her part in the manner some- 
what foreshadowed in the Kamaastra. The other love 
affair that Kalidasa describes was that of Siva and 
Parvati and here also only in the 5th canto, that we 
find a grfeat ideal depicted in the effort of ParvatI to 



tiou of life 
by the 
to the scope 
of free love 
a natural 
for the deve- 
lopment of 

attain, through penances, such proper worth as may 
make her deserving of her great husband, and this is the 
most important message of the book. Otherwise, the 
Kavya, as a whole, falls flat on our ears. The 1st nnd the 
2nd cantos are bores. The 3rd canto attains some vigour 
and the 4th canto is a mere parody of the tragic conse- 
quences following the effort of Kama to fascinate Siva. 
The 6th and 7th cantos can well be read or omitted. 
We thus see that the divine episode, even when deli- 
neated by a master genius like Kalidasa, really failed 
because it had not the realities of life. Its value with 
us is the great idea that physical beauty by itself 
cannot really win the heart of great souls and also the 
idea that it is only then when a great soul is wedded 
with a woman who by her moral austerities can make 
herself pure and attract her husband through her 
purity and spiritual greatness and the crucifixion of the 
baser tendencies of life, that great leaders of nations 
such as Karttikeya can be produced. 

A member of the higher caste is to get married 
the very day he ceases to be a Brahmacarl according to 
the maxim that one cannot stay even a day without 
belonging to an arama. Such marriages would naturally 
be arranged for him by his parents and relations and 
if after that he remains absolutely loyal to his wife, 
there is hardly any room for any intrigue or romance. 
Sanskrit poetry generally holds within it a charm 
or attraction which is almost inimitable by any other 
language, but owing to the patternised form of 
life enjoined by the smrtis, the scope of life depicted 
in the Kavyas became so narrow and limited. The 
honest life formulated in the codes of duties, fixed 
once and for all, cannot be the fit atmosphere for the 
free development of poetic art. Freedom of love to 
some extent has to be tolerated in society and boys 



and girls have to remain unmarried up to an adult 
age in order that love episodes may be possible. Where 
the girls are married before they attain their puberty 
and when such marriages are arranged by their 
relations and when other forms of non-marital love 
are not recognised, the sphere of love poetry naturally 
becomes very limited. One has to find some instances 
of illicit love in royal spheres or one has to 
deal with heavenly nymphs or carry on with the tales 
of the Rdmdijana or the Mahabharata. 

Taking sex-love by way of illustration, we find 
that the Kamasutra, written probably towards the 
beginning of the Christian era, says (1.5.3) that sex 
behaviour to girls of lower caste, who are not untouch- 
ables, to prostitutes and to widows prepared to marry 
again, is neither recommended nor prohibited. It 
is only for pleasure. 1 The institution of prostitution 
of higher ( or lower orders was allowed in society 
without much objection. Thus when Carudatta in 
Mrcchahatika was challenged that how being an 
honourable man he had kept a prostitute though he 
had his wife, he says, " yauvanamevatraparaddham na 
caritraw." "It is only the fault of my youth and 
not of my character. " In the Yajfiavalhya also we 
find in the Vyavahara-adhyaya, Chap. 24, that primary 
and secondary sex behaviour were only prohibited in 
relation to married women, girls of higher castes 
and also other girls against their wish. There was 
thus a fair amount of latitude for free love and 
a study of the Kuttanlmatam shows that even prostitutes 
were sometimes smitten with love though it is their 
profession to attract young people and deplete them of 
their riches. The fact that the transgression of young 

1 avaravarndsu aniravasit&su vetyatu punarbhftsu ca na rfiffo na prati- 
siddhah sukharthatvat, 

E 1343B 

Yet in an- 
cient times 
much wider 
freedom was 
for sex rela- 



Latitude of 
later on 
ruled out 
in practice 
through the 
influence of 
the Smrti 

girls with regard to the secondary sex acts such as 
kissing, embracing and the like by other young men 
was treated very lightly, is realised by reference to 
Yajfiavalkya and Mitaksard. } Again, it seems from 
Yajfiavalkya (Acdrddhydya Vivdhaprakarana) that 
transgression of married women unless it bore fruit, was 
treated very lightly. Thus Yajfiavalkya (1.3.72) says, 
vyabhicdrdd rtau suddhih, i.e., in the case of trans- 
gression the woman is purified by the next menstrua- 
tion. The fact also that there were so many kinds 
of marriages and particularly the existence of a 
gdndharva marriage shows that life was much freer 
in ancient times than in later days. As the rigours 
of the Smrti advanced with time and tried to stifle 
free social behaviour and as social customs became 
more and more puritanic and these again reacted upon 
the writers of the Smrti and influence them gradually 
to tighten their noose more and more, the cifrrent of 
social life became gradually more and more stagnant 
and unfit for free literary productions. 

This also explains why the poets so often took the 
theme of their subject from older Kfwyas and Puranic 
legends. In itself there may be nothing wrong in 
taking themes from older legends, provided the poet 
could rejuvenate the legend with the spirit of his own 
times. Shakespeare also drew from the legends of 
Plutarch and other older writers. But though 
the general scheme of the story is the same, yet the 

1 somah Saucarp dadavasdrp gandharvasca hibhdm giram I 
pdvakah sarva-medhyatvam medhyd vai yositohyatah II 

Yajfiavalkya, I. 3. 71, 

somagandharvavahnayah strirbhuldvd yathdkramar(i tdsdm tiauca- 
madhura-vacana-sarvamedhyatvani. dattavantah tasmdt striyah tarvatra 
spar baling ana diu medhydh ttuddhah smrtah II 

~Mitak?ara, 1.3.71. 



characters have become living because Shakespeare lived 
through these characters in his own imagination and 
his sparkling genius took the materials of his own Mfe 
from the social surroundings about him which became 
rekindled by his emotion and imagination and it 
was this burning colour of the characters, lived through 
in the mind of the poet, that was displayed in his 
dramatic creations. In the case of the Indian poets, 
the legend was drawn from older Kavya or Puranic 
myths but the poet himself had but little life to 
infuse in the story (because in the social surroundings 
in which he lived, mind was not free to move) lest he 
might produce any shock on the minds of his readers 
who used to live a patternised life. The force of this 
remark will be easily appreciated if we remember 
that Sanskrit poets who deal with illicit love seldom 
make it the central theme of any big Kavya and 
they utilised the little affairs of illicit love only in draw- 
ing little pictures. The writers of Alamkara tell us that 
wherever such illicit love is described and howsoever 
beautifully may it be done, it must be taken as 
rasabhasa, i.e., semblance of literary aesthetic emotion 
and not real rasa or real aesthetic amorous sentiments. 

A poet like Kalidasa made a successful venture in 
Abhijfiana-sakuntala, where though the love was not 
illicit yet it was going to shock the mind of his audience. 
In order to prevent such a catastrophe, he had to take 
his heroine as the daughter of a Ksattriya and a 
heavenly nymph and as Dusyanta was going to repress 
his emotion because it bad no sanction of society he 
was at once reminded of the fact that his mind was so 
much saturated with the proper discipline of the Vedic 
life that he could trust his passion as directing him 
to proper action. This very passage has been quoted 
by Kumarila in defence of actions that may be done 

No theme 
of illicit love 
or love tin* 
by the so- 
cial rules 
could be de- 
scribed bj 
poets with- 
out shocking 
the cultivat- 
ed taste. 

Kalidasa 's 
of love of 
romance 8. 



were pro- 
bably out 
of date in 
Kalidasa 's 

This ex- 
plains the 
plot of the 

even without the sanction of the sastra in accordance 
with the customary behaviour of those whose minds 
are saturated with Vedic ideas through generations of 
loyal obedience to older customs. This also explains 
Manu's injunction of saddcdra as being one of the 
determinants of conduct. 

Kalidasa al&o arranged the gandharva marriage 
which was already becoming out of date at the time. 
Pie had however in his mind the instinct of compunc- 
tion of a man whose mind is surcharged with senti- 
ments of loyalty to the Smrti-sdstras for staging such 
a romance which was not customary at the time. He 
therefore introduces a curse of ancient times through the 
fiery wrath of Durvasa, creating a tragic episode which 
he really could not bridge except by the very unreal 
staging of a drama by making the king travel to heaven 
and kill demons there and meet Sakuntala in the 
heavenly hermitage of Marlca. For such a king who 
can travel to heaven and kill demons there, one is 
prepared to give any license. But Kalidasa did not 
realise how unreal was this part of the drama when 
taken along the natural and normal environment of the 
first part. Of course Kalidasa never hesitated to be 
unreal in his dramatic treatment. Sakuntala's familia- 
rity with nature in the poetic fancy that nature also 
loved her is expressed in a technique which is wholly 
unreal, viz., that of making the trees offer ornaments 
for Sakuntala. 

Rabindranath in his criticism of the drama 
has interpreted it as embodying the conception of 
Kalidasa that mere carnal love has a natural curse 
with it, unless it is chastened by self-mortification 
and tapasya. I would supplement it with a furthei 
additional idea that this was probably Kalidasa's vievi 
in the case of such weddings as are to produce grea! 



sons like Bharata and Karttikeya. He is not loyal to 
this view either in Vikramorvasl or in Malaviha- 
gnamitra. In Sakuntala, however, it may rightly be 
argued that the conception bad taken place through 
passionate love and Sakuntala was in fairly advanced 
state of pregnancy when she was repulsed from 
Dusyanta's court. It may further be added that there 
was no wilful self -mortification and attempt to rouse 
purity through a sense of value for a great love, as was 
the case of Parvati's tapasya in Kumara-sambhava, 
for Sakuntala lived with her mother in heaven and was 
naturally pining through sorrow of separation from 
Dusyanta and wearing garment for lonely ladies as 
prescribed by the Sastras. Strictly speaking there 
was no tapasya for love ; it was merely a suffering for 
separation and as such we cannot apply the norm of 
Kumarasambhava to the drama $akuntala. From this 
standpoint Rabindranath's view cannot be strictly 
justified. For suffering through mere separation may 
chasten the mind and improve the sterner qualities of 
love, but it cannot fully affect the nature of the original 
worth and such occasions of suffering may arise even in 
normal circumstances. We cannot also hold that 
Kalidasa believed that suffering through separation 
chastens love, for we do not find it in the case of 
Vikramorvasl and the Mcghaduta. It seems therefore 
more pertinent to hold that the veil of unreality of a 
heavenly journey and meeting the son there were 
conceived as improvements on the Mahabharata story 
because the gandharva form of marriage had become 
obsolete and to make the issue of such a wedlock 
a great emperor like Bharata might not have pleased 
Kalidasa's audience. 

The unreality of Vilmnnorcati is so patent that it 
needs no stressing. In the Raghuvamh also there 

review of 
how far 



of KilidSsa's 
plots as 
with the 
plot of 

Overflow of 
passion in 
the lyrics. 

tion and 
of Indian 

are many episodes which are wholly of a mythical 
nature. Why did this happen even with a genius like 
Kalidasa ? Our simple answer is that life had begun 
to bte patternised even at the time of Kalidasa. People 
would swallow anything that was mythical and that was 
the only place in which there was some latitude for 
depicting emotions. The normal life had begun to be 
undramatic and uneventful. Anything beyond the 
normal would have been resented as not contributing to 
good taste. But Sudraka who flourished centuries 
before Kalidasa, did not feel any compunction in 
making the love of a courtesan the chief theme of 
his drama. There, for the first and the last time, 
we find a drama which is surcharged with the 
normal realities of life. 

But the Sanskrit poets being thwarted in dealing 
with free passionate love as the chief theme of a glorious 
Kavya gave indulgence to the repressed sex-motives in 
gross descriptions of physical beauty and purely carnal 
side of love both in long-drawn Kavyas and also in 
lyrics. It is for this reason that the genius of Sanskrit 
writers in their realism of life has found a much 
better expression in small pictures of lyric poems than 
in long-drawn epics. The repressed motive probably 
also explains why we so often find carnal and gross 
aspects of human love so passionately portrayed. 

I do not for a moment entertain the idea that 
Sanskrit poets as a rule had a puritanic temperament 
or suffered from any sense of prudery. They 
regarded amorous sentiment to be the first and most 
important of all rasas. Indeed, there have been 
writers on Alarpkara who had held the amorous 
sentiment to be the only sentiment to be portrayed. 
But the patternised form of society and the unreal 
ways of living where every action of life was con- 


krolled by the artificial injunction of the smrti which 
always attempted to shape the mould of a progressive 
society according to the pattern and model of a society 
which had long ceased to exist in its natural environ- 
ments and which was merely a dream or imagination, 
hampered the poet's fancy to such an extent that it 
could seldom give a realistic setting to the creation of 
his muse. We may add to it the fact that Sanskrit 
poetry grew almost in complete isolation from any 
other literature of other countries. The great poetry of 
Rabindranath could not have been created if he were 
imprisoned only in the Sanskritic tradition. The 
society of the world and the poetry of the world in all 
ages are now in our midst. We can therefore be almost 
as elastic as we like, though it must be admitted that 
we cannot stage all ouri deas in the present social 
environment of this country. Here again, we live in a Gradual 


time when there are different strata of society stand- tion of 
ing side by side. The present society has unfurled its 80Ciey< 
wings towards future progress and in such a transi- 
tional stage, the actual process of becoming and the 
various stages of growth are lying one within the other. 
This may be well illustrated if we take the case of men 
and women living in the so-called polished and polite 
society of Chowringhee and the people living in the 
distant villages of Bengal. We have now in our midst an 
immense number of societies having entirely different 
ideals and perspectives. There must have been some 
difference between people living in court atmosphere 
and people living in hermitages far away from the town 
such that the latter could hardly tolerate the former as 
is well-expressed in the words of Sarngarava and Sarad- 
vata. But on the whole there was a much greater 
uniformity of society where all people followed the law 
of smrti. 



and unreal- 
ity of the 
life depicted 
in the 

of poetry. 

In conclusion I wish to suggest that the cause of the 
artificiality and unreality of the life depicted in the 
Kavyas is due to two facts : one, the gradual depletion 
of life from society due to the rigour of the smrti and 
absence of any intercourse with any foreign literature, 
and the other, the conservatism for which whatever 
foreign life was known to India could not in any way 
influence the character and perspective of the Indians. 

In this connection it is not out of place to mention 
that the world of poetry was regarded as a new creation 
different from the world of Nature. The purpose of 
poetry is to give aesthetic enjoyment and not to give a 
replica of the hard struggles of life, miseries and 
sufferings. But I have reasons to think that this does 
not imply that poetry should be divested from life but 
it merely shows the spiritual nature of art which even 
through the depicting of sorrows and sufferings produces 
aesthetic pleasure. The object of poetry is mainly 
to rouse our sentiments of joy and everything else 
is to become its vehicle. This alone distinguishes 
the material world from the world of art. Thus 
Mammata says that the world of Nature is uniform 
as it is produced by the power of destiny and is 
dependent upon the material atoms, energy and the 
accessory causes and is of the nature of pleasure, 
pain and delusion, whereas the world of words 
is a direct production of the poetic Muse and is 
through and through interpenetrated with aesthetic joy. 
It is also thought that poetry must carry with it the 
delineation of an ideal or ideals not communicated by 
way of authorisation, injunction or friendly advice, but 
by rousing' our sympathy and interest, our joy and love 
for them. It was therefore committed to the produc- 
tion of something that would not in any way be shock* 
ing to the sense of the good as conceived by the people. 



But the relieving feature of the Sanskrit Kavyas, 
inspite of the conventional themes, subjects and 
ways of description, is to be found in the fact that 
most of the legends drawn from the Puranas or the 
older Kavyas, were often such that the people 
were familiar with them and were used normally and 
habitually to take interest in the heroes and heroines 
which were pretty well-known. People did not also 
miss naturalness and reality because they thought that 
in literature- they were entering into a new world, 
which was bound to be different from the world of 
Nature they knew. The majesty and the grandeur 
of the Sanskrit language, the sonorousness of word- 
music, the rise and fall of the rhythm rolling in waves, 
the elasticity of meaning and the conventional atmo- 
sphere that appear in it have always made it charming 
to those for whom it was written. The unreality and 
conventionality appear only to a modern mind looking 
at it with modern perspectives. The wealth of 
imagery, the vividness of description of natural scenes, 
the underlying suggestiveness of higher ideals and the 
introduction of imposing personalities often lend great 
charm to Sanskrit poetry. 

The atmosphere of artistic creation as displayed in 
a Sanskrit play, as distinguished from the atmosphere 
of ordinary reality has well been described by Abhinava- 
gupta in his commentary on Bharata's Natya-Sutra. 
Thus, Abhinavagupta says that the constitutive words 
of a Kavya produce in the mind of the proper reader 
something novel, something that is over and above 
the meaning of the poem. After the actual meaning of 
words is comprehended there is an intuition by virtue of 
which the spatio-temporal relation of particularity that 
is associated with all material events disappears and a 
state of universalisation is attained. When in the play of 

F 1843B 

features of 

The tran- 
object of 
literary art. 


tfafcunfa/aking Dusyanta appeared on a chariot following 
a deer for piercing it with his arrows, the deer was 
running in advance, turning backward its neck from time 
to time to look at the chariot following it and expecting 
a stroke of the arrow at every moment, and drawing its 
hind legs towards the front, twisting the back muscles 
and rushing forth with open mouth dropping on the way 
the half-chewed grass, we have a scene of fear ; bat our 
mind does not refer it to the deer of any particular time 
or place or to the particular king who was hunting the 
deer, and we have no idea of any fear as being of any 
particular kind or belonging to a particularly localised 
animal. The absence of this particularity is manifested 
in the fact that we have no feeling of sorrow or anxiety 
associated with it. It is because this fear arises in a 
special manner in which it is divested of all association 
, of particularity that it does not get mixed up with any of 
our personal psychological feelings. For this reason the 
Display of aesthetic experience produced by literature, the senti- 
ment that is realised through delineation in art, is 
devoid of any association with any particular time, 
place or person. For this reason the aesthetic represen- 
tation of fear or any other emotion is entirely different 
from any real psychological sentiment. And therefore, 
it is devoid of the ordinary associates that accompany 
any real psychological sentiment that is felt personally 
as belonging to a real person in a particular spatio- 
temporal setting. Abhinava says that in such a fear 
the self is neither absolutely hidden nor illuminated in 
its individual personal character (tathdvidhe hi bhaye 
natyantamatma tirashrto na vitesatah ullikhitah). The 
artistic creation and representation then appear in an 
atmosphere of light and darkness, shadow and illumina- 
tion in which the reference to the real person and the 
real time and place is dropped. As when we ipfer the 



existence of fire from smoke we do not make any 
reference to any special fire or any special smoke, 
so here also the aesthetic sentiment has no localised 
aspect. When through the gestures, of the players 
different sentiments are aroused in the minds of the 
observers, then the representation so intuited ^s 
divested of the spatio-temporal relations . 

In the external world things exist in an inter-related 
manner and the negation of some of these relations 
imply also a negation of the other relations. For this 
reason when the mind becomes unrelated to the spatio- 
temporal relations and the actual personalities then the 
sentiment that is roused is divested of personalities and 
the actual conditions and the importance is felt of the 
roused sentiment alone. 

There is in our unconscious mind an instinctive 
attraction for different kinds of enjoyment as well as sub- 
conscious or unconscious impressions of various kinds 
of satisfactions. When aesthetic sentiments as disso- 
ciated from their actual environments of the original 
are roused in the mind, these become affiliated to or 
reconciled to the relevant root-impressions or instincts 
and that transforms the presentation into a real emotion 
though they are divested from the actual surroundings 
of the original. It is because the aesthetic emotion is 
roused by mutual affiliation of the representation and the 
in-lying dormant root-passions which are common to all 
that there can be a communion of aesthetic sentiments 
among observers, which is the ultimate message of art- 
communication (ata eva sarva-samajikanamekaghana* 
tayaiva pratipatteh sutardm rasa-pariposaya sarve?am 
anadi-vasana-citrikfta-cetasam vasanaswiivadat) . 

We thus see that universalisation is of two kinds. 
On the one hand, there is the universalisation of the 
representation consisting of the depletion from it of the 

The sort of 
roused in 


li sit ion in 


actual conditions of the environment and the actual 
personalities. On the other hand, there is another kind 
of universalisation with reference to its enjoyment. 
The enjoyment is more or less of the same type for all 
qualified observers and readers. All persons have the 
same type of dormant passions in them and it is by 
being affiliated with those dormant passions that the 
aesthetic emotions bloom forth. For this reason in the 
case of all qualified observers and readers the aesthetic 
emotion enjoyed is more or less of the same type 
though there may be individual differences of taste on 
account of the existence of specific differences in the 
dormant passions and the nature of representations. 
In any case, where such aesthetic emotion is not 
bound with any ties and conditions of the actual world 
it is free and spontaneous and it is not trammelled or 
polluted by any alien feelings. The aesthetic quality 
called camatkara manifests itself firstly, as an aesthetic 
consciousness of beauty, and secondly, as the aesthetic 
delight, .and thirdly, as nervous exhilaration, 
of Abhinava is unable to define the actual mental 
experience, status of aesthetic experience. It may be called 
an intuition, a positive aesthetic state, imagina- 
tion, memory or a mere illumination (sa ca 
sakstitkara-svabhavo manasa-dhyavasayo vd samkalpo 

ud smrtirvd tathdtcena sphurann-astu 

api tu pratibhdnd-para-paryydyd sdksdtktira- 

svabhdveyam), Our ordinary experiences are bound 
with spatio-temporal environments and conditions. 
In literature there cannot be such obstacles. When 
without any obstruction the rooted passions bubble 
forth as aesthetic emotion we have the emotion of lite- 
rature. At the time of knowing ordinary objects we 
have the objects as actually transcending our knowledge 
which have an objective reality and which cannot be 


caught within the meshes of knowledge. When I see 
a tree standing before me I can only see certain colours 
spatially distributed before me but the actual tree itself 
is beyond that knowledge of colour. Being connected 
with an object which exists transcending my colour- 
perception and which cannot be exhausted within that 
colour-perception, our knowledge cannot stand by itself 
without that object. For this reason perceptual ex- 
perience cannot wholly discover for us the object. So 
in our inner perception of pleasure or pain there is the 
ego within us which is unknown in itself and is known 
only so far as it is related to the emotions through 
which we live. For this reason here also there is the 
unknown element, the ego, which is not directly 
known. Our experiences of pleasure and pain being 
integrally related to it, we have always an undiscovered 
element in the experience of ordinary pleasure and 
pain. Pleasure and pain, therefore, cannot reveal them- 
selves to us in their entire reality or totality. Thus, 
both our inner experiences of pleasure and pain and our 
objective experience of things being always related to 
something beyond them cannot reveal themselves in 
their fulness. Our knowledge thus being incomplete in 
itself runs forth and tries to express itself through 
hundreds of relations. For this reason our ordinary 
experience is always relative and incomplete. Here our 
knowledge cannot show itself in its wholeness and self- 
complete absolute totality. Our knowledge is always 
related to an external object the nature of which 
is unknown to us. Yet it is on the basis of that 
unknown entity that knowledge manifests itself. It 
is therefore naturally incomplete. It can only express 
itself in and through a manifold of relations. 
But the aesthetic revelation is manifested without 
involving the actual object within its constituent 



outlook of 

Concept of 

content. It is, therefore, wholly unrelated to any loca- 
lised object or subject. The aesthetic revelation is thus 
quite untrammelled by any objective tie. 

I do not wish to enter any further into the 
recondite analysis of the aesthetic emotion as given 
t>y the great critic of literature, Abhinavagupta. 
But what I wish to urge is that the writers of Indian 
drama had not on the one hand the environment consis- 
ting of a social life that was progressive and free 
where concussions of diverse characters could impress 
their nature on them and on the other hand they 
regarded that the main importance of literature 
was not the actuality and concreteness of real life 
but they thought that the purpose of literature was 
the creation of an idealised atmosphere of idealised 
emotions divested from all associations of concrete actual 
and objective reality. Thus, Dr. De says : " Sanskrit 
drama came to possess an atmosphere of sentiment and 
poetry which was conducive to idealistic creation at the 
expense of action and characterisation, but which in 
lesser dramatists overshadowed all that was dramatic 
in it/' 

According to the Sanskrit rhetoricians, Kavya is 
divided into two classes drsya and sravya, i.e., what can 
be seen and what can be heard. Neither the Sanskrit 
rhetoricians nor the poets made any essential distinc- 
tion between Kavya and drama, because the object of 
them both is to create aesthetic emotion by rousing 
the dormant passions through the aesthetic representa- 
tion or the art-communication. Our modern concep- 
tion that drama should show the repercussions of 
human mind through a conflict of action and*re-action 
in actual life cannot be applied in^ judging the Indian 
dramas. The supreme creator of the world, Brahman, 
produces the world out of Him as the* representation of 



magical hallucination which has order and uniformity 
as well as unchangeable systems of relations, but 
which is all the same a mirage or mayd and is relatively 
-temporary. The poet also moves his magic wand 
and drawing upon the materials of the world, weaves 
a new creation which possesses its own law but which 
is free from any spatio-temporal bondage of particularity 
in the objective world. It becomes spread out in our 
aesthetic consciousness where the aesthetic delight 
may show itself without being under the limitation 
of the objective world and the ordinary concerns and 
interests of the subjective mind. Yet there are some 
dramas at least like the Mrcchakitika and the 
Mudrardksasa which satisfy our modern standards of 
judgment about drama. 

Consistent with the view that drama was not 
regarded by the Sanskrit poets as a composition in 
which the conflict of action and re-action and the 
struggle of passions are to be delineated, the Sanskrit 
poets as a rule abstained from showing any violent 
action or shocking scenes or shameful episodes or 
gross demonstration of passion or anything revolting 
in general on the stage. They had a sense of perfect 
decorum and decency so that the total effect intended 
by the drama might not in any way be vitiated. Con- 
sonant with this attitude and with the general optimism 
of Indian thought and philosophy that the world- 
process ultimately tends to beatitude and happiness 
whatsoever pains and sufferings there may be in the 
way that Indian drama as a rule does not end 
tragically ; and to complete the effect we have often a 
benedictory verse to start with or a verse of adoration,, 
and a general benediction for all in the end so that 
the present effect of the drama may leave a lasting 
impression on the mind, Indian culture as a rule 

The idea 
behind the 
ending of 


does not believe that the world is disorderly and that 
accidents and chance-occurrences may frustrate good 
life and good intentions, or that the storms and stress 
of material events are purposeless and not inter-related 
with the moral life of man. On the other hand, the 
dominant philosophical belief is that the whole 
material world is integrally connected with the destiny 
of man and that its final purpose is the fulfilment of 
the moral development of man. % Even the rigorous 
SmrtUastra which is always anxious to note our 
transgressions has always its provisions for the expiation 
of our sins. No sins or transgressions can be strong 
enough to stick to a man ; it may be removed either by 
expiation or by sufferings. Freedom and happiness 
are the birth-right of all men. The rigorous life 
imposed upon an ascetic is intended to bring such 
beatitude and happiness as may be eternal. 
Consonant with such a view the ideal of art should be 
not one of laying emphasis on the changeful and 
accidental occurrences but on the law and harmony 
of justice and goodness and ultimate happiness. When 
we read the dramas of Shakespeare and witness -the 
sufferings of King Lear and of Desdemona or of Hamlet, 
we feel a different philosophy. We are led to think 
that the world is an effect of chaotic distribution and 
redistribution of energy, that accidents and chance 
occurrences are the final determinants of events and the 
principle of the moral government of the world is only 
a pious fiction. But Indian culture as a rule being 
committed to the principle of the moral fulfilment of 
man's values as being ultimate does seldom allow 
the poets and artists to leave the destiny of the world 
to any chance occurrence. Chance occurrences and 
accidents do ipdeed occur and. when the whole is 
not within" our perspective they may seem to rule 


the world. But this is entirely contrary to Indian 
outlook. Granting that in our partial perspective this 
may appear to be true, yet not being reflective of the 
whole it is ugly, unreal and untrue and as such it is 
not worthy of being manifested through art, for the 
final appeal of art lies in a region where beauty, 
goodness and truth unite. The genuine art is supposed 
to rouse our sattva quality. It is these sattva qualities 
which in their tripartite aspects are the final source 
from which truth, goodness and beauty spring. 
According to the Hindu theory of Art, there cannot 
be any impure aesthetic delight and all aesthetic 
delight beautifies and purifies our soul. It is for this 
reason that even when the drama has a tragic end the 
effect of the tragic end is softened and mellowed by other 
episodes. Thus in the Uttaracarita the pivot of the 
drama is the desertion of Slta. But the effect of this 
desertion is more than mollified by the episode of the 
third act in which Rama's passionate love for Sita is so 
excellently portrayed and by the happy manner in 
which the drama ends. 

We may regard the Mahabharata and the Rdmdyana The , 

bhdrata 9 

as the earliest specimens of great works written in the its dynamic 
kdvya style. Though the Mahabharata underwent 
probably more than one recension and though there 
have been many interpolations of stories and episodes 
yet it was probably substantially in a well-formed 
condition even before the Christian era. I have 
elsewhere tried to prove that the Bhagavadgita was 
much earlier as a specimen of the Vdkovdkya literature 
which was integrated in the Mahabharata as a whole. 
It is of interest to note that the whole tone of the 
Mahabharata is in harmony with that of the Gtta. The 
Mahabharata is not called a kdvija, it is called an itihdsa 
and judged by the standard of a kavya it is unwieldy, 



massive and diffuse. It does not also follow any of 
the canons prescribed for a mahakavya by later 
rhetoricians. But it is thoroughly dramatic in its 
nature, its personages often appear with real characters 
and the conflict of actions and re-actions, of passions 
against passions, of ideals and thoughts of diverse 
nature come into constant conflict and dissolve 
themselves into a flow of beneficent harmony. It is a 
criticism of life, manners and customs and of 
changing ideals. It is free, definite and decisive and 
the entire life of ancient India is reflected in it as in a 
mirror. It contains no doubt descriptions of Nature, 
it abounds also in passages of love, but its real 
emphasis is one of life and character and the conflict of 
different cultures and ideals and it shows a state of 
society which is trying to feel its course through a 
chaotic conflict of different types of ideas and customs 
that mark the character of a society in a state of 
transition. Various stereotyped ideals of old are 
discussed here and dug to the roots as it were for 
discovering in and through them a certain fundamental 
principle which could be the basis of all morality and 
society. The scheme of the VarnaSrama-dharma was 
still there and people were required to do their duties 
in accordance with their own varnas. To do good 
to others is regarded in the Mahabharata as the solid 
foundation of duty. Even truth had its basis in it. 
But still in the cause of one's duty and for the cause 
of right and justice the Ksattriya w?}s always bound 
to fight without attaching any personal interest in the 
fruits of his actions. 

These and similar other principles as well as moral 
stories and episodes are appended with the main story 
of the Mahabharata and thus it is a great store-house 
which holds within it at least implicitly a large part 



of ancient Indian culture and history of thoughts. The 
style of the whole is easy and flowing and there is seldom 
any attempt at pedantry or undue ornamentation. The 
style of the Ramayana, however, is much more 
delightful and it reveals genuine poetry of the first 
order. It is for this reason that the Ramayana has 
always been looked upon as unapproachable model not 
only by lesser poets but also by poets like Kalidasa 
and Bhavabhuti. 

Bhamaha and other writers think, however, that 
the essential condition that contributes to the charm 
of alamkara and kavya as well is atifayokti or the 
over-statement of the actual facts. This over-statement 
does not only mean exaggeration but a new way of 
approach to things, a heightening of value which 
also constitutes the essence of vakrokti. In what- 
ever way one may heighten the value of that which 
was a mere fact of Nature it would contribute to poetry. 
In every type of poetry, even in svabMvokti, the poet 
has to re-live within him the facts of Nature or the 
ordinary experiences of life and it is by such an inner 
enjoyment of the situation that the poet can contribute 
a part of his own inner enjoyment and spiritual pers- 
pective to the experiences themselves. 1 Mere state- 
ment of facts in which there is no sign that the 
poet lived through it cannot make literature. "The 
sun has set, the birds are going to their nests " 
are mere informations. They do not constitute 
kavya.* Thus the so-called alanikaras are often but 

1 said sarvaiva vakroktiranaydrtho vibhavyate I 

yatno'syarp kavind kdryah ko'larpkaro'nayd vind II 

-Bhamaba, II. 85. 
* gato'stamarko bhattndurydnti vdsdya pakqinah I 

ityevamddi fettp kdvyavp vdrttdmendip pracakfate II 

Bhftmaha, II. 87. 

The essence 
of K&vja as 
the height- 
ened ezpres. 
sion of 


the signs which show that the poet has re-lived 
through his ordinary experiences with his aesthetic 
functions and has thus created art. An over-emphasis 
of them, however, or a wilful effort at pedantry which 
does not contribute to beauty is indeed a fault. But 
in a poet like Bana we find the oriental grandeur 
of decoration which,, though majestic and pompous, is 
nevertheless charming. 

The choice if we take a review of the subject matter of the 

of subjects. ' 

various kavyas and dramas, we find that the plots 
are mostly derived from the Mahabharata, the Rama- 
yana and sometimes from some of the Puranas, some- 
times from the stories of great kings, or religious and 
martial heroes, or sometimes from floating stories or from 
the great story-book of Gunadhya and its adciptations, 
and sometimes from the traditional episodes about kings 
and sometimes also from stories invented by the poet 
himself. But as we move forward through the 
centuries, when the freedom of thought and views and 
ideas became gradually more and more curbed, the choice 
of subjects on the parts of the poets became almost wholly 
limited tp the stories of the Ramayana and the Maha- 
bharata. This would be evident to anyone who will read 
the history of Sanskrit literature as presented here 
together with editorial comments at the end of the book. 
Works of literature are not mere plays of imagina- 
tion or of solitary caprices of the brain, but they may 
be said to be transcripts of contemporary manners or as 
representing types of certain kinds of mind. It is some- 
times held that from the works of literature one might 
form a picture of the modes of human feelings and 
thoughts through the progressive march of history. 


Maramata in his Kavyaprakasa says that krivya produces 
fame, one can know from it the manners and customs of 
the age and that it produces immediate artistic 
satisfaction of a transcendent order both for the reader 
and for the writer and it is also instructive by the 
presentation of great ideals in a sweet and captivating 
manner like that of one's lady love. 

We can understand the history of literature of 
any country only by regarding it as being merely a 
product, a flower as it were, of the entire history 
rising upwards towards the sun like a gigantic tree 
with outspreading branches. 'It may be difficult to 
follow the tree from branch to branch and from leaf 
to leaf, but the tree has left its mark, the type to 
which it belongs, in its flowers. One can classify 
the histories of the various people by comparing 
the essential characteristics of the literature as much 
as one can classify the trees through the flowers./ It is 
indeed true that an individual poet, though he may 
belong to his age, may have his own peculiarity of 
temperament and interest by which he may somewhat 
transcend the age. But such transcendence cannol 
altogether change the character of his mind whict 
is a product of his society. 

Genuine history does not consist of the wars and History 
battles that are fought, the accession and deposition 
of kings ; so if we judge of literature, it is not mere 
mythology or language or dogmas or creeds which may 
be discovered from certain documents that constitute 
literature, but it is the men that have created it. The 
general characteristics of an age can also become vivid 
if we can portray before our mind the individual men. 
Everything exists only through the individuals and we 
must become acquainted with the typical individual. We 
may discover the sources of dogmas, classify the poems, 


realise the political constitution of the country or 
analyse the language in accordance with the linguistic 
principles and so far clear the ground. But genuine 
history is brought to light only when the historian 
discovers and portrays across the lapse of centuries the 
living men as to how they worked, how they felt, how 
they are hemmed in by their customs, so that we may 
feel that we hear_ their voice, seeTBelr gestures, postures 
and features, their dress and garment, just as we can do 
of friends whom we have visited in the morning or seen 
in the street. 

If we want to study a modern French poet 
like Alfred de Musset, or Victor Hugo, we may 
imagine him, as Taine says, " in his black coat and 
gloves, welcomed by the ladies and making every 
evening his fifty bows and his score of bon-mots 
in society, reading the papers in the morning, 
lodging as a rule on the second floor ; not over- 
gay because he has nerves and specially because 
in this dense democracy where we choke one another, 
the discredit of the dignities of office has exaggerated 
his pretensions while increasing his importance and 
because the refinement of his feelings in general 
disposes him somewhat to believe himself a deity." 
Then again, if we take a poet like .Racine of the 17th 
century, we can imagine him to be elegant, courtier- 
like, a fine speaker, with a majestic wig and ribbon- 
shoes, both Koyalist and a Christian, clever at enter- 
taining a prince, very respectful to the great, always 
knowing his place, assiduous and reserved, at Marly 
as at Versailles, among the regular pleasures of a 
polished society, brimming with salutations, graces, 
airs and fopperies of the Lords, who rose early in 
the morning to obtain the promise of being appointed 
to some office, in case of the death of the present holder, 


and among charming ladies who can count their 
genealogies on the fingers in order to obtain the right 
of sitting at a particular place in the court. So also 
when we read a Greek tragedy we must be able to 
imagine of well-formed beautiful figures living half- 
naked in the gymnasia or in the public squares under 
the most enchanting panorama of views ; nimble and 
strong, conversing, discussing, voting, yet lazy and 
temperate, waited on by slaves so as to give them 
leisure to cultivate their understanding and exercise 
their limbs and with no desire beyond attending to 
what is beautiful. We can get a picture of such 
a Greek life from thirty chosen passages of Plato 
and Aristophanes much better than we can get from 
a dozen of well-written histories. 

If we wish to picture before our mind the life of a city 
beau in jmcient India we cnn imagine him as having a 
house beside a lake with a garden beside it, having many 
rooms for his works, for meeting people, for sleep and 
for bath a house divided into an external and internal 
part, the internal part for the ladies. His bed is 
covered with a white sheet made fragrant with incense, 
pillowed on both sides, the head and the feet, and 
very soft in the middle, with a seat for an idol or image 
of a deity at the head-side of the bed, a small table 
with four legs of the same height as the bed on which 
there are flower-garlacds, sandal-paste, a little wax 
in a vesseI7~~a little fragrant fan, spices; there is 
a spitoon on the grouncTTThe ' Vina ' is hanging on 
a peg in the wall; there is a number of pictures 
hanging in proper positions in the wall, articles for 
painting on a table, some books of poems and some gar- 
Ian JsT The seats inTfie room are covered with beauti- 
ful covers ; outside in the verandah there are probably 
birds in a cage and arrangements of diverse sports in 


the yard, a jwing bagging jp a shady ^ place ; and an 
elevated quadrangle for sitting at pleasure. 

The beau rises in the morning, performs his 
morning ablutions, offers his morning prayers and other 
i^IigqusJdufi'^T^besmears himself faintly with sanjial- 
paste and wears clothes fragrant with the smoke 
of aguru, wears a garland on his hair^ slightly paints 
hisTipsfwith red, chewTbetel leaves, and looking at his 
face at a mirror, ~^T~gb out to perform his daily 
duties. He takes his bath everyday, cleanses.his Jyjdy 
with perfumes, gets himself massaged, sometimes 

!,, ; ______ i i i -- -i--*- < -" "*"""* ">""*"" *.. ' "' 

takes vapour-baths, shaves generally every three da^s, 
takes his meals in the middle of the day, in the 
afternoon and also in the night; after meals he would 
either play or go to sleep and in the evenings gojput 
tojbe clubs for sport. The early part of the niight 
maybgipent in music jmd the night in love-making of 
j receiving ladies and attending to them. 

He arranges^ fg&tivities on the occasions of worship of 
particular godjs; in_ the clubs he talks about literature 
in small groups, he sits together and drinks, goes out 
to gardens and indulges in sports. On festive occasions 
in the temple of Sarasvat! dramatic performances are 
held^jand actors and dancers from different temples 
come and meet together for the performance. Guests 
are received and well attended to. The clubs were 
generally located in the houses of courtesan^ or in 
special houses or in the houses of some members of the 
club: These clubs were often encouraged by the kings 
and in such places men more or less of the same age, 
intelligence, character and riches, met and spent their 
time in mutual conversation or conversation with 
courtesans. There they discussed literature, or prac- 
tised dramatic art, dancing, singing, etc. They would 
often drink wines at each other's houses, 



Raja^ekhara describes the daily Jifej>f a poet. He 
rises in the morning, performs his morning duties 
including religious practices. Then sitting at leisure 
in his study-room, he studies books relevant to poetry 
for about three hours and for about another three hours 
he engages himself in writing poetry. Towards midday, 
he takes his bath and meals, after which he again 
engages himself in literary conversations and literary 
work. In the afternoon, in association with chosen 
friends he criticises the work done in the morning. 
When a person writes something under the inspiration 
of emotion he cannot always be critical. It is there- 
fore desirable that he should criticise his own work and 
try to better the composition in association with chosen 
friends. He then re- writes the work. JJ ^ sleeps 
for six hours and in the early hours of the morning 
he reviews the work of the previous day. There are, 
however, poets who have no restrictions of time and 
are always engaged in writing poetry. Such poets 
have no limitations of time as those engaged in services 
of some kind or other. Well-placed women such as 
princesses, daughters of high officials and courtesans as 
well as the wives of gay people became often highly 
learned and also poets. 

It is the business of the king to establish an 
assembly of poets. When the king himself is a poet, 
he would often make assembly halls for the poets 
where all learned people assemble as well as musicians, 
actors, dancets and gingers. lbe kings Vasudeva, 
Satavahana, Sudraka, probably all had established such 
academies/) It is for this reason that in the capitals 
of great kings learning bad so often flourished. Thus, 
Kalidasa, Mentha, Amara, Rupa, Sura, Bharavi, 
Bhattara Haricandra and Candragupta flourished in 
Ujjayini. So also Upavarsa, Varsa, Panini, Pingala, 

Life of 
poet aftc 



Vyacji, Vararuci, Patanjali and others flourished in 
Pataliputra. 1 

We know from Arthatastra that all kinds of 
teaching of fine arts and literature were encouraged 
by the Mauryyas and that teachers of music, dancing, 
acting, etc., were maintained out of the provincial 
revenue.) The kings held in their courts from time to 
time great exhibitions of poets and scholars, where they 
wrangled with one another and vied for victory in 

literary contests. There were often Poet Laureates 

- .- '*- -- ~< " - 

attached to the king's court. Srlharsa says that in the 

W 9*Ha*n*""*~***"' **~- -" '-* 

court of Jayacandra a seat was reserved for him and he 
was offered two betel-leaves as a mark of honour, 
of ^et us look at the autobiography of Bana who lived 
in the court of Srlharsa in the J7th century. . He tells 
us that his mother died when he was quite young and 
his father also died when he was almost of the age of 
fourteen. He was studying at the time and he had 
sufficient wealth to maintain himself at home. But 
with the beginning of youth he was impatient and got 
into naughty habits. At this time he got a number 
of associates and friends. (A little scrutiny into the 
%k~oJL that Bana had may give us an idea 
of the sort of people that lived in the city and bow in 
the city life all classes of people mixed together^ Thus 
he says that he had for his associates Candasena and 
Matrsena, who were born out of a Brahmin father and 
a Sudra mother, the poet Isana, B^ra and Naray ana T 
who were learned ^schdar^ Bharata^Jjhe composer of 
Sanskrit songs, Vgyu-vikara, who was born in the 

1 iha kalidasa-inenthav-atra'maiarfipa-sura'bhdravayah/ 
haiicandra-candraguptau parikitav'ilia vMlayam// 
Myate ca pa^aliputre sastrakara-parlkfd, 

atro-pavar$a-var<av-iha pdnini-pihgalav-iha vyadify/ 
varamci-patanjali iha parikfitah khyatim upajagmuh// 

r- Kavyarolmarpss, Ch, X t 


family of those who made songs in Prakrt, Anarigavana 
and Sucivana, two ladies, Katy ay anika and Cakra- 
vakika, Ma^uraka the forester, Candaka the seller of 
beteMeaves, Mandaraka the _jader, " Candaka the 
gbysician, Sudrsji the artist, Siddhasena the go'dsmith 
and jeweller, Govinda the writer, Vfravarmaja , the 
painjgr, Kumaradatta the varnisher, Jlmuta the drum- 
mer, Somila and Grahaditya Jhe singers. Kuramnka 

* <~ . , .. ,..,." *" _,!. M Q -*** 

the independent artisan girl, the pipers, Madhukara 
and Paravata, Darduraka the teacher of dancing, 
Keralika the massage-girl, the dice-player Akhan<Jal#ka, 
the dancing-master Tandavika, fhe actor Sikhandaka, 
the nun J3umati, the monk_yiradeva, the dancing-girl 
Haramika, the' reciter Jayasena, the saiva Vakraghoija, 
the enchanter Karalakesa, and the magician .Cakoraksa, 
Being overcome by such an association he went out of 
his home for seeing different countries in an irrespon- 
sible manner and after a time returned to his country. 
He then describes the atmosphere of Vedic studies and 
sacrifices that prevailed among his relations. Their 
houses rang always with the sound of Vedic recitations. 
People had their forehead besmeared with ashes, their 
long hairs were brown like fire. The children^^who 
came to see the sacrificial ceremonies, sat on different 
s^gs. There were little hollows which were softened 
with the flowing soma-juice. The^ards were green 
with grass. The signs "of dark deer were lying about 
on wKiclT lay the sacrificial cakes and sacrificial rice. 
"The nwara paddy were scattered about on the sands. 
Hundreds of holy^d[scipies were bringing the green 
ku6a, thesacrificmljvood, qowdung; the yard was mark- 
ed everywhere with the hoofs of cows that supplied 
milk for the sacrificial W^|i- Many of the sacri- 
ficers were busy besmearing their kamandalus with 
mud. Heaps of branches of fig tree were lying about 


for sacrificial pegs. The whole ground was rendered 
brown by the sacrificial offerings. The smoke of the 
clarified butter had darkened the foliage of trees. 
Gradual We have again in Harsacarita the description of 

cit/We from splendour and magnificence of the capital ^and^ the 
the tillages? court of a Hindu king and the description as to 
how he encouraged scholars and poets, artists and 
scientists as also the pleasures of a city-life, \ As we 
read Kalidasa describing court scenes many centuries 
before, we find that the ^court-Jife was not so far 
removed by its splendour and majesty from the life 
of ordinary people, the citizens, the members of the 
hermitage, and the like.j Dillpa ju iisujourney to the 
hermitage of Va&stha goes alone with his wife looking 
at the village scenes and talking with the rustic* people 
on the way. His personal greatness, strength and 
vigour of character made such an appearance of his 
great personality that though alone he appeared as if he 
was in accompaniment of a host of retinue and army. 
'There is a naive simplicity in the portrayal of Dillpa 
and Du?yanta, of Vikrama and Pusyamitra which 
we cannot find in Bana's portrayal. As we move up 
to Bhasa, we find that life in general, whether^ in 
court^^^outaide 1 was more akin to the description 
that we find in the Arthasastra, ^yith the difference 
that performances of Vedic sacrifices have a greater 
prominence in the lives of kings than what we find 
in the portrayal of royal lives in Kalidasa or 
Bana. } Already in Kalidasa the hermits from the forest 
cannot regard the city-life and the court-life with 
complacence. Sarngarava and Saradvata think of 
the court of Dusyanta as a hall surrounded with fire. 
Neither Vikrama nor Dusyanta performs any sacrifice 
and when Pusyamitra does it, he does so with a sense 
of majesty and greatness. Entirely different is the 


portrayal of the kings of the past age with whom 
performances of sacrifices and gifts are almost a normal 
routine. Even the great hero, Raghu, leaves up his all 
after his conquering career in his sacrifice. 
We thus see that as we move along the centuries, 
the court-life becomes gradually separated from 
the life of the people as a wholep With this 
separation new types of characters and professionals 
of diverse description began to grow up and the court 
atmosphere and the city atmosphere gradually became 
alienated from the life of the people as a whole. Yet 
the older Vedic life and its ideals, as they became more 
and more hazy and dreamy, began to assume almost a 
supernatural hold consisting of fear and hope for the 
people at large. The influence of the legal literature 
with their injunctions and restrictions, became more 
and more stringent and more and more stiffened and 
inelastic as time went on. (li seems that the people as 
a whole tolerated the court-life, but hardly assimilated 
it in their blood. \ An artificial division was thus 
created and more and more emphasised as we take a 
long perspective through the centuries from a position 
of an early eminence. With the inrush and settlement 
of Islamic supremacy and the practical destruction of 
Hindu court-life the breakage became almost complete. 
In a climate like that of India, people indeed appreciat- 
ed the passionate side of life and even from the time 
of the Mauryyas or even earlier than that, the courte- 
sans had almost an unrestricted importance and the 
urban taste often descended into vulgarity. We have 
the figure in terra cotta of a dancing girl discovered in 
the Mauryya level in Patna, where the girl is wearing 
shining apparels all over her body but her prominent 
breasts are shown uncovered. /1\Iost of the woman- 
figures in ancient art show the bosoms of young women 


in an uncovered manner.) This tallies with the des- 
cription of women's breasts in so many of our Sanskrit 
erotic verses which are shocking to our modern taste .^ 
More than this, we find Sanskrit poets vying with one 
another in the description of the most delicate acts of 
sex-life illustrating, as it were, the descriptions in the 
Kama-sutra. But be it as it may, the normal judg- 
ment of tEe audience had most often a sound inclination 
and in order to cater to this taste, we often find that 
a drama or a kavya most often had a moral lesson to 
impart, though it ran always as an undercurrent. It 
is for this reason that stories from the Ramayana, the 
Mahabharata and the Puranas played such an impor- 
extenfliveij tant-part for the formation of plots of Kavyas and 
dramas. In decadent times, most of the dramas and 
kavyas drew their inspiration from religious mythology. 
In and through such religious mythology the poets 
could gratify the expression of their erotic sentiments 
and could also cater to kindred sentiments among the 
audience without the fear of shocking their taste or 
appearing irreligious. In Sanskrit and particularly 
in Bengali poetry that flourished in the 16th and 17th 
centuries we find that erotic sentiments displayed 
through the divine personages of Krsna and Radha 
became the religious creed of a particular sect of 
Vaisnavism. Such expressions of eroticism were un- 
related to marital restrictions and it was supposed that 
such dalliance between Krsna and Radha took place in 
transcendental bodies to which criticisms from the stand- 
point of ordinary mundane life were hot applicable. 
They were the demonstrations of love in life divine and 
a devotee may enjoy them from an upper sphere of 
spirituality with which the carnal being is out of con- 
tact. This idea of transforming eroticism into a religion 
had not its beginniag only in the 15th or 16th century 


literature of Bengal but it can be traced in the Bhaga- 
vata and other literature as early as the 5th or 6th 
century A.D. 

It may be pointed out in this connection that sex 8a *f k v r e it m 
liberty in fields other than marital were allowed in 
society and accepted by the legal literature, though not 
approved by the higher conscience of the people. The 
existence and persistence of niyoga for a long time in 
Hindu society shows that even in marital spheres sex 
liberty was allowed in a restricted form. The existence 
of various kinds of marriages and the legal rights allow- 
ed to children produced in a non-marital manner also 
illustrate the contention. In pre-Christian times, the 
Gandharva form of marriage was regarded as quite 
respectable and a girl of a certain age was given the 
right to choose her own husband, if the parents had not 
married her within a prescribed age. We find in 
Kalidasa that Dusyanta says that tradition goes that 
daughters of kings had married according to the 
Gandharva custom and that such marriages were 
approved by parents. This shows that in Kalidasa's 
time at least the Gandharva marriage was going out of 
fashion. But in the story of Vasavadatta in Bhasa and 
also in Avimaraka, it appears that no exception was taken 
to the Gandharva marriage. But for the restriction by 
the Privy Council the law of Gandharva marriage still 
holds according to Hindu Law. But as early as the 
story of Vilhana we find that in spite of the provision 
of Hindu Law the Gandharva form of marriage was not 
recognised by the society. 

But side by side with this liberty of marriage of 
earlier times, the rules of Smrfci gradually made marriage 
of women more and more binding before the attainment 
of puberty. Thus, excepting in the case of nymphs or 
daughters of nymphs, or girls of kings,, from older 


stories, like that of Gunadhya, themes of free love 
between adult men and women are indeed very rare in 
Sanskrit dramas. The Malatlmadhava is a pratyrana 
or that type of drama where the plot is invented by the 
poet. But though the story as a whole is new, elements 
of it are mostly found in the Katha-sarit-sagara. In 
Sudraka's Mrcchakatika we have a portrayal of love 
between the courtesan Vasantasena and Carudatta*. 

But yet we have a host of Sanskrit verses which 
deal with the love of abhisarikas or those women who 
themselves come to the houses of their beloved at night. 
In the Kama-sutra also we find that the houses of the 
nagaras were visited by the abhisarikas. But there is 
hardly any instance, apart from the kathd literature, 
wherein any respectable girl has been depicted as 
playing the part of ao abhisarika. In the anthologies 
and atakas we have almost a superabundance of love 
poems which are apparently of a non -marital character. 
But these are mostly single 61okas depicting a love 
scene, portraying a passion, or a love situation, without 
any reference to the sort of persons between whom this 
love was carried on. 

Mammata makes a distinction between rasa and 
rasabhasa (semblance of rasa). l When a woman has 
many lovers or when illicit love is expressed, or when 
love is not responded to, or if the expression of love be 
with regard to intimate relations of a higher status, such 
expression of love is shocking to the audience and is 
called semblance of amorous sentiment (rasabhasa). 
Thus, some of the best erotic poems have been counted 

1 tadabhasd anaucitya-pravartitah Kdvya-prakdta IV. 49. 

anaucityarp ca sahfdaya-vyavaharato jfleyarpi yatra te$am anucitamiti dhih. 
tacca &fbgare bahu-viQayatvena upanayakadi-gatatvena nayaka-nayikanyatara- 
matravi$ayatvena guru-jana-gatatvena tiryagadi-gatatvadina ca nanaiva. 
Uddyota commentary on the above as quoted in Jhalkikar's edition of Kavya> 



by many critics as examples of rasabhasa. Sarada- 
tanaya in his Bhava-prakatana of the 12th century 
modified this definition to a considerable extent and 
regarded that only when a description of love is such 
that it creates laughter that it is called rasabhasa. 

If we take the general sweep of the growth of 
Indian civilisation and culture we find that Hindu 
life in India opens with the pretty vast collection 
of poems called the. Vedas, which are surcharged with 
the impressions of Nature in its beautiful, tender, 
terrific and tempestuous aspects produced upon the 
extremely sensitive minds of the Indian people. The 
Aryans when colonising in India came amongst people 
who were either extremely barbaric and uncivilized, 
or who, as in the Indus Valley and in the South, 
were people who had a civilisation entirely different 
from theirs. The Aryans clung to their social order 
of the four varnas, to their Vedas and to their 
original customs and rights in order to keep their 
integrity amongst an alien and barbaric people. Their 
original religion consisted of hymns to the Nature gods 
as preserved in the Vedas along with certain simple 
rites. It is difficult to reconstruct the nature of these 
rites as they have become merged in the complexity 
of rituals associated with the necessity of the preserva- 
tion of fire. The Vedic prose writings evolved by 
way of elaborating and systematising these sacrificial 
details. But as the Vedic families grew in number and 
expanded in different directions in the East and the 
South a separate secular life evolved and differentiated 
from the original Vedic structure and it gave rise to 
various professions as cities began to grow. The 
original motive of the early Vedic hymns was religious 
worship &nd as such Sanskrit literature has seldom been 
able to free itself from the religio-raoral element. But 


Growth of 
Indian civi- 
from Vedic 


with the expansion of life two other motives differentiated 
themselves in an absolutely clear and distinct form. 
The Vedic religion had its magical element with refer- 
ence to supra-mundane happiness and all through the 
development of Indian religion and philosophy it had 
never been able to get rid of this magical element. The 
philosophy of the Vedanta, the Buddhism, the Yoga and 
the Samkhya have always to depend upon the concept of 
magic and illusion as the fundamental pivot of the 
superstructure of these philosophies. 
Natural But with regard to the mundane affairs, the Indians 

India. have always been absolutely definite, concrete and 

realistic in their conceptions. There is no mysticism 
whatsoever in Sanskrit poetry. They are all based upon 
concrete and tangible emotions. The inexhaustible 
wealth of natural phenomena in a country of tropical 
climate girdled by great mountain ranges, deep and 
extensive oceans interspersed with long and wide rivers ; 
where the seasons appear in so marked a manner, 
with glorious colours of the sky, the glowing sunshine, 
silvery moonbeams, the pouring sonorous rains, the 
sweet and green verdure, the blossoming fragrant 
flowers of all hues and beauty ; where birds with brilli- 
ant feathers and sweet chirpings and cooings and 
animals of all description, the beautiful antelopes, the 
fleet steed, the majestic elephants and the royal lions 
are abundant in the forests ; all these captivated the 
sensitive minds of the Indians as much as the gazelie- 
eyed damsels, with their ruddy cheeks and lips, the 
flowing raven hair, and healthy physique of emphatic 
outlines of figure. 
Thecbarac- /Q the other hand, the Indian mind is subtle, deep, 

Indian tem- logical to the extreme, imaginative and analytic.\ The 
men. j n( jj an m \ n ^ has as much appeal to passion and 
emotion, desire for enjoying the world at its best as for 


making provision for future post-mortem welfare which 
is as real to it as the world here on earth. At the 
same time, the Indian mind takes infinite delight in 
carrying on logical thoughts to their consistent conclu- 
sions in analysing, classifying, naming and arranging 
the data in any sphere of experience. Again, the 
climatic conditions in which the Aryans in India 
came to live were such that their very existence in life 
often depended upon favourable showers which alone 
could render their corn-fields fertile. They had thus to 
depend upon fate and Providence as the fundamental 
datum for their well-being. Yet they were fully con- 
scious and alive to the efficiency of human will and action 
Human beings are not mere playthings in the hands o 
Nature. (The Indians in the history of their civilisation 
understood the value of human life and human existence 
as the end and purpose of the whole of natural 
existence. \ They therefore somehow believed that fate 
or destiny, howsoever unknown and unknowable may 
be its nature, can in reality be influenced and modified 
by our actions. Herein they fell back on faith which 
was an indispensable postulate for proper action. This 
world is for our enjoyment and so we have the 
world beyond the present, after death, which must be 
for our happy existence and it is somehow given to 
us that whatever may be the obstacles in the way of 
destiny or fate or in the way of the vagaries of natural 
phenomena, it lies in our power, which is itself a faith, 
that we can modify its nature and method of working 
in our favour. Early in the history of human civilisation 
they discovered the existence of a supreme power which 
not only controlled the phenomena of the external world 
but also all the biological phenomena of life, the func- 
tions of our cognitive and conative senses. They began 
to search for the secret of this power in the external 


The genius 
and tem- 
perament of 
the race 
shows itself 
in the litera- 

world and being disappointed therein, turned inwardly 
to their own minds and discovered that the secret of 
.this great power that ruled the life, the universe and 
the man, was nothing but the self. Thus, side by 
side with the development of the magical literature 
which elaborated the sacrificial doctrine that sought 
the source of all power outside man in his ritual 
dealings with the external world, we have the secret 
instructions of the Upanisads which reveal to us 
the ultimate philosophy and secret of human life and 
its place in Nature. 

Literature is but a mode of the self-expression of the* 
inner man. The external man is visible, the internal 
man is invisible. We can look at the articles of civilisa- 
tion, the house, the furniture, the dress, the ordinary 
marks of refinement or rusticity, energy or constraint, 
customs and manners, intelligence, inventiveness and 
coolness, but all these are but different roads, the visible 
avenues that lead us to the invisible internal man as 
these are but his ways of expression. The internal man 
is but an organic unity of emotive and conative impulses 
which unroll themselves in accordance with the influ- 
ences, physical and social, in which the person has to 
evolve. The gifts of a particular race are its own. 
The peculiarities of the Greek imagination that gave us 
the twin sister of the Antigone of Sophocles and the 
goddesses of Phidias are the peculiar expressions of the 
Greek mind. As there are differences in anatomical 
structure between the various species of animal and plant 
lives, so there are essential anatomical peculiarities in 
the structure of the different racial minds. If we take 
the life of a man like Cromwell as depicted by Carlyle 
, we may discover a secret organic unity within him and 
an inner soul which would explain all his springs of 
action. We find how a soul is working with the 


troubling reverses of a melancholic imagination but with 
a tendency and temperament and instinct which is 
English to its very core, unintelligible to those who 
have not studied the peculiar English, climate and 
still more the peculiarities of the genius of the English 
race. In and through his letters and mutilated speeches 
one may have the panorama of pictures that led 
him from his farm and team to the general's tent 
and the Protector's throne ; all through the changes 
and vicfssitudes of life, in his freaks of conscience 
and political conclusions, the entire machinery of 
bis/ mind becomes directly visible ; and all through 
his individuality we mark the peculiarities of the 
insulated Englishman. In understanding the peculiar 
transformation of the English life in the middle ages 
we can perceive how from under the meaningless 
theological discussions and monotonous sermons, how 
from underneath the beating of living hearts, the con- 
vulsions and apathies of monastic life, the unpredicted 
genius of English life re-asserts itself in wavy turmoils 
and how the inroads of surrounding worldliness and its 
struggles with the monastic ideal, the true appreciation 
of civic life in its exactness, balance and strength, 
reveals itself, and how the iron determination of the 
race shows itself through its constant struggle with 
the neighbouring states. How this English genius is 
well-contrasted with that of France, cultured and re- 
fined with her drawing-room manners and untiring 
analysis of character and actions, her keen irony and 
ready wit, her finesse so practised in. the discrimination 
of shades of thought, her turbulent and uncontrollable 
emotions, can be judged by any one who would care to 
study the representative literature of the two countries. 

The idea of a supernatural world, of God and His 
relation to man is indeed common to most civilised 


human races, but it is the peculiar mode and appre* 
hension distinctly unique in itself that has in one case 
resulted in the architecture of the churches being thrown 
down the old status, destruction of pictures and 
ornaments, curtailment of ceremonies, shutting up of 
worshippers in high pews and the like and in the other 
case in the erection of temple-structures, installation of 
images, abolition of windows, darkening of the inner 
chamber, and at the same time in the provision for 
individual worship for every person according to his 
needs and also in the provision for conceiving God 
as formless, graspable only in thought and devo- 
tion and purity of character. While truth is regarded 
as one in the European countries, the Indians have 
always regarded the reality of grades and aspects of 
truth. It is for this reason that evolution in Europe 
has always taken place by destroying or modifying the 
old, ushering in the new with a total disregard of the 
old except in so far as its elements lay hidden in 
the structure of the new. Indian genius, however, felt 
no contradiction between the old and the new. The 
development of Indian thought therefore is the ushering 
in of the new without the annulment of the old. While 
the development of the Upanisadic monism may ,on 
one hand be regarded as the annulment of the pluralism 
of Vedic sacrifices and rituals yet the latter persisted 
side by side with the former through centuries. The 
Indian always found such relations between the old and 
the new that it regarded every aspect of the evolution 
as true with reference to human history and the history 
of truth in evolution. The European who does not 
understand this peculiarity of the Indian genius, must 
necessarily fail to have a proper perspective of the evolu- 
tion and development of Indian thought. The Indians 
do not feel any contradiction in taking to Vedic forms 



of rituals at the time of marriage and have the images 
of Siva, Visnu and Sakti installed in his family temples 
and at the same time regard the Brahman as the ulti- 
mate truth as formless, causeless and yet the cause of all. 
Many European scholars have discussed the ques- 
tion of the secular or religious origin of dancing and 
dramatic plays. They have failed to notice that the 
origin is both religious and secular and in the same 
performance even now both religious and secular value 
is attached. The Vaisnava lyrics are tested from a 
literary point of view as excellent poems of love and at 
the same time they are enjoyed with deep religious 
fervour developing into religious frenzy and unconscious 
states of emotional depth. 

When the Aryan settlers entered India in successive 
hordes and found themselves amongst the aborigines of 
India, the most important concern with them was the 
maintenance of the integrity of their race and culture. 
They were, however, somewhat humane in their tem- 
perament and could not think of destroying absolutely 
those of the aborigines who submitted to them against 
the hostile ones, the Raksasas and the Asuras. They 
carried on an interminable war against the hostile ones 
until at least most of them were destroyed. It is not 
impossible that the civilization of the people of the Indus 
Valley which is almost universally admitted as being 
pre-Vedic was so destroyed. At the same time it would 
be unwise to think that even these hostile people had 
not infiltrated some of their customs and religious 
beliefs and other elements of their civilisation. The 
Siva cult and the Yoga cult may be pointed out as 
specific instances of such infiltration. A close analysis 
and comparison of the elements of earliest Vedic civili- 
sation may in course of time reveal many more instances 
of mutual contact and indebtedness, 

and secular 
ideas wedde 

with alien 


The idea But along with the successful war and occupation of 

of dnarma as to . 

social integ- the country and gradual extension of the civilisation 
towards the East along the course of the Ganges and to- 
wards the South beyond the Vindhyas, unobstructed at 
the time by any foreign invasions, the principal problem 
before these Aryans was to solve the question of social 
synthesis consistent with absolute social integrity. 
They felt that without such a social integrity their 
unity and fraternity would be lost and their influence 
and existence would be destroyed under the strange 
influence of an alien land. They therefore fell back for 
the preservation of their old customs and manners to 
the religious practices as preserved in the oral traditions 
of the Vedas and the subsequent Vedic literature as it 
developed gradually in course of time. Their chief 
motive urge was social preservation and social continu- 
ity and maintenance of its integrity and solidarity, 
which the term ' dharma ' etymologically means. 
Such a problem need not arise in any appreciable manner 
in the case of those Aryans who had migrated to the 
Western countries for where -the Aryans were in large 
multitude they destroyed the original aborigines and 
the inter-marriage between the various hordes of Aryans 
did not or could not lead to any disruption of their 
social integrity as Aryans. In Iran the Aryans preserved 
their integrity and thus their civilization till the advent 
of the Moslems and when they could not withstand the 
impact of Islamic invasion they largely lost their 
integrity and their civilisation merged with the 
civilisation of the Semitic people. But even there 
the best literature and philosophy of the Islamic 
world had been produced by the Persian converts. 
No other nation has been known to produce litera- 
ture and philosophy of a standard higher than that of 
the Aryans, 



As the preservation of the Vedic culture was thus 
regarded upon as the only means of social preservation 
and the maintenance of social integrity, and was thus 
looked upon as dharma, the idea of dharma as confor- 
mity to old customs and manners of Vedic times 
became the main spring not only of the evolution of the 
legal literature, the Purdnas and the Dharma-dastras, 
but it became ingrained in the society as the fundamen- 
tal and indispensable structure and scheme of all its 
cultural products. Nothing could be allowed to prevail 
that would come into conflict with the dharma. 

This dharma again was based upon a literature and 
pre-eminently upon a poetic literature, viz., the Vedas. 
Literature thus in one sense as a traditional store- 
house of past customs and manners, was the source of 
dharma and it was dharma also that was in some 
sense at least the dominant influence or guide in the 
production and development of later literature. Practices 
of a secular nature that prevailed in old Vedic times 
became associated on the one hand with dharma and on 
the other they continued to have a development on 
secular lines such as would not be inconsistent with the 
practice of dharma. 

I shall give one instance. In the Rgveda I. 92.4 
there is a passage which describes the dancing of a 
courtesan (nrtu) adhi pe$amsi vapate nrtur-iva-pornute 
vaksa ticchreva varjaham. Sayana in commenting on the 
verse explains it as follows : nrtur-iva nartayantlyosid- 
iva pe&arrisi, rupa-namaitat sarvair-darfaniyani rupani 
usa adhivapate svatmani adhikam dhdrayati vaksah 
svaklyam urahpradefam pornute anacchaditam karoti 
i.e., the Usas is like a dancing girl who carefully clothes 
herself in her best raiments but keeps her bosom 
uncovered in order to attract the eyes of all. Now, 
a terracotta figure of a dancing girl with beautiful and 

J 1843B 

The con- 
cept of 
depends on 
the Vedas. 

of even the 
through the 



the guiding 
principle of 
Hindu cul- 

utlook and 
be doctrine 
f trivarga. 

sparkling raiments over all her body but with bare bosoms 
has been discovered in the Maurya level of excavation 
near the site of the present Patna College. (See 
A. Banerjee-Sastri's article, I. H. Q., 1933, p. 155.) 
Now, we find that exactly the same kind of dancing girl 
that used to dance before the audience in Vedic times 
appears in the same kind of dress keeping her bosoms 
bare and her body clothed in raiments before the 
audience in Maurya times. The continuity of the 
practice of the same kind of dancing with same kind of 
clothes for more than thousand years, cannot but appear 
to us surprising. Exactly the same sort of dancing of 
the Devadasis may even now be noticed in many of the 
temples of the South. 

We thus notice a strange continuity of secular 
practices and a strange association of these with reli- 
gious practices which has led many scholars to 
conceive the development of Indian drama from religious 
sources. The point, however, that we wish to lay stress 
upon here, is that the motive ot dharma being essen- 
tially of the nature of social preservation and maintenance 
of social solidarity, had never been lost sight of in the 
development of Indian literature. The importance of 
this would be realised when we consider that even 
to-day the indispensable definition of being a Hindu 
consists in his participation in and loyalty to the Vedic 

If we closely review the tendencies of the Vedic 
culture', we find that in addition to the adherence to 
certain Vedic customs and manners and the doctriues 
of sacrifices, the Vedic people were anxious like other 
Aryan people to provide for wealth and enjoyment in 
this life &nd for making provision for happiness here- 
after. As a matter of fact, most of their prayers are 
for mundane advantages, prosperity and happiness. 


Even a cursory reading of the Atharva Veda will show 
that these Vedic people would offer prayers even for the 
meanest advantage and pleasure of vulgar types. The 
idea of dharma was later on supplemented with high 
moral ideals, self-control, control of passions and the 
like ? culminating in the desire for liberation, but the 
idea of sense-enjoyment and the accumulation of articles 
of prosperity, i.e., kama and artha, remained all through 
the centuries more or less unaffected. The Hindu 
culture thus has been motivated principally by four 
impulses, the impulse of dharma, artha, kama and 
moksa. Of these the moksa literature consists primarily 
of the Upaniads, the works of the different philosophi- 
cal systems, the religio-philosopbical literature of the 
Tantras and the like. The impulse of dharma is to be 
found in the sacrificial literature and its accessories, the 
Vedahgas. The motive of artha forms the content of the 
Vartta literature which is now mostly extinct. The 
motive of kama in its special application to sexology 
has led to the development of a fairly large literature 
on the Kama-tastra. The dharma, artha and kama 
together are called the trivarga. The literature of 
Political Science, the Kavya and the like are supposed 
to have been motivated by the three fundamental 
emotive tendencies, dharma, artha and kama. Of these 
the huge stotra literature is motivated by the impulse of 
dharma while the other forms of literature, viz., Epic 
Kavyas, Lyric Kavyas, the Dramas, have been moti- 
vated by three principles, dharma, artha and kama and 
so also is the katha literature and the niti literature. 

We have said above that the genius of the Indian 
mind is at once extremely analytic and imaginative. 
For this reason we have a fairly large literature of 
Natya-tastra and Alamkara-astra, which not only ana- 
lyses in Jdetail the various elements that constitute the 


complex act of dancing, acting and music, but which 
has also tried to review in detail the structure and 
technique of the Drama as well as the principles under- 
lying the display of sentiments through the histrionic 
art as well as poetry in general. 

Bharata in describing natya has characterised it 
as productive of dharma and fame, as conducive to long 
life and increasing the understanding and as instructive 
to people in general. It is supposed to be the conjoint 
result of all knowledge, wisdom, art and craft. Its 
purpose is to produce a sort of imitation of human events 
and character. It produces satisfaction and rest for the 
suffering, the fatigued, the wretched and it consoles 
those that are troubled by grief. l Dramatic art is thus 
regarded by Bharata, the author of the earliest work 
on the science of dramaturgy now available, as the art 
of reproduction by imitation. Consistently with it, 
Dhananjaya has defined natya as the reproduction of a 
situation and as the different characters are given visible 
form (rupa) in the person of the actors, a drama is called 
a rupaha. Among the commentators of Bharata there 
are learned discussions regarding the sense in which a 
dramatic performance may be regarded as a reproduction 
in the sense of imitation and Abhinavagupta, the most 
penetrating and distinguished critic of art, strongly 
objects to the idea of imitation. He holds that through 
music, dancing, acting and the dress, dyeing, and the 
stage environment, the dramatic performance is entirely 

1 nana-bhavopasampannaip nana-vasthanta<ratmakam \ 
hka-vrttdnukaranaw na}yametanmaya kftam II 
dutykhartanam $ramartanarp $okartanarp tapasvinam \ 
viAranti-jananam kale natyametad bhavifyati II 
dharmyatp yatasyamayuqyarp hitarp buddhi-vivatdhanam \ 
loko-padeta-jananarp natyametad bhavijyati II 
no taj*jfianarp na tac-chilpaip na sa vidya na sa kala \ 
n&sau yogo na tat karma n&tye'smin yanna drSyate II 

Bharata's Natyatastra. 


a new art for the production of aesthetic joy and it is 
not imitation in any ordinary sense of the term. 
Abhinavagupta says that imitation of other's move- 
ments would produce the ludicrous and imitation of 
other's feelings and emotions is impossible. The 
influence of music, the sight of the other actors and the 
stage environment produce in the actor an influence by 
which he forgets his spatio-temporal, actual or local 
personality and thus transfigures himself into his 
dramatic personality and a new world consistent with 
the spirit of the dramatic situation appears in him and 
his performance produces in a similar manner a new 
influence, and a new type of communication emerges out 
of him and enlivens the mind of the audience. But we dramatic 
shall not enter here into any details of the nature of arfc< 
art-communication. We are only interested to point 
out that dramatic performance becomes an art when 
recitation in the form of dialogues associated with 
suitable gestures, postures, movement, dancing, dress 
and music, succeeds in giving expressions to sentiments 
and passions so as to rouse similar sentiments in the 
minds of the audience. Thus it becomes a dramatic 
art. Thus Natyadarpana says : natakamiti natayati 
vicitram ranjanat praveena sabhyanam hrdayam narta- 
yati iti natakam. 1 In this sense a dramatic perform- 
ance should be distinguished from mere recitation 
which is not so effective. We have elsewhere in the 
editorial notes tried to show the manner in which the 
dramatic performance evolved through a combination of 
recitation, dancing and acting and the fact that there 
were at least in the 2nd century B.C. and in the time 
of the Mauryyas, schools and teachers for the training 
of the dramatic art. 

1 yadyapi kathadayo'pi srotfhfdayatn natayanti tathapiahk opayadinavp 
vaicitryahetunamabhavdt na tathd ratlfakatvam iti na te nfyakam I 



value of 

The epi- 
sode of King 

We have said above that the kacyas and the natya 
contributed to dharma, artha and kama and Bharata's 
specification of the object of dramatic performance also 
confirms the view. Not only is natya called a Veda for 
universal instruction and the author of the Natyaastra 
called a muni (saint) but dramatic performances were 
generally held in times of religious festivities and when 
they consisted in the reproduction of the great characters 
of the Rdmayana and the Mahabharata, they had not 
only an educative value in rousing noble passions but 
they were regarded also as productive of merit, both for 
those who performed them and for those who listened to 
and witnessed them. Even to-day the Kamacarita is 
played in a peculiar manner in the United Provinces in 
India, where the players as well as the audience are 
surcharged with a religious emotion. Again, when a 
kathaka or a reciter would recite, say, the episode of 
the marriage of Sita, religiously-minded persons would 
have the impression in their minds that the marriage of 
Sita was actually taking place before them and those 
who can afford to do it, would willingly offer golden 
ornaments and jewels as articles of dowry for Sita, 
which of course, are received by the Brahmin reciting 
as his fees. Even those who cannot afford to pay 
much would offer whatever they can, fruits and flowers, 
coins, grains, etc., on such an occasion. Here, again, 
we must note the imaginative character of the Indians, 
who can very easily lose their personality when they 
listen to the imaginary description of deeds that are 
dear to their hearts. I do not know if any other people 
in the world have such imaginary susceptibilities. 

In the Prapannamrta (Chap. 86) by Anantacarya 
there is a curious episode of King Kula^ekhara who was 
a Tamil king living in the 12th century, who was very 
fond of listening to the recitation of the Ramayana. 



When he listened to a verse to 'the effect that Kama was 
alone to meet the fourteen thousand demons, he became 
so much excited with the affair that he immediately 
armed himself from head to foot and was on the point of 
marching with all his arrny to meet Havana as an ally 
of Rama. 1 Such imaginative predilection of the Indian 
people could easily be utilised by the poets by dealing 
with characters of the Rdmdyana and the Mahabharata 
and the Puranas as a means of rousing the religious 
and moral interest of the audience and thereby contri- 
buting to dharma. We know that the Rdmdyana, 
which is definitely called a Mvya and the Mahabharata 9 
which is called an itihdsa, are regarded as invested 
with the holiness of the Vedas. Thus, there was an 
easy bridge between what may be called dharma and 
what may be called plain literature. We can also 
assume that the Indian people in general were as a rule 
religi'ously-minded and cared for that type of literature 
which initiated them to religious principles and 
strengthened their faith in a pleasurable manner 
through amusements. This may be a very important 
reason why most of the plots of Indian dramas and 
kdvyas were taken from the Rdmdyana, the Maha- 
bharata and the Puranas. There are indeed some plots 
derived either directly or indirectly from Gunadhya or 
the floating materials used by him or from similar other 
sources. In other cases, the lives of great kings or 
saints also form the subject-matter of the kdvyas and 
the dramas and in a few cases historical events have 

tarn imam Slokam, bhaktiman kulatekharah | 
caturdata-sahasrdni raksasam bhlma-kannanam \ 
ekatca rdmo dharmdtmd katharfl'yuddharp, bhaviqyati \ 
asahisnustato'dharmayuddharp 6ighram> skhalad-gatih \ 
dhanurvanaip samdddya khajgarii carma ca viryyavan 
caturangabalopeto janasthdnam- kftatvarah I 
pratasthe tatk$ane tasya saMyarthavp, haripriyah II 

ment of the 
people often 
explains the 
choice of 



or religious 
inspired the 
poets in 
framing the 

also been made the subject-matter of literature. Side 
by side with these historical kdvyas we have many 
prafasti-kavyas in inscriptions which are of excellent 
poetic merit, such as, the pratastis by Kavigvara 
Rama (700-800 A.D.) and the LalitaSuradeva of the 
9th century A.D. , &c. 

Not only in the choice of subjects but also in the 
framing of the plots, poets were sometimes guided by 
idealistic motives. Thus Kalidasa described the physical 
beauty of Parvati to its perfection in the Kumar a- 
sambhava, but in the matter of the fruition of her love 
for a great yogin like Siva, the fragile physical beauty 
was not deemed enough. She must go through the 
hardest penance in order that she may make her love 
fruitful. It is only the spiritual glory and spiritual attain- 
ment of spiritual beauty, beauty attained by self-control 
and the attainment of moral height that can become 
permanent and eternal. 1 In the case of the love of 
Sakuntala, who in the intensity of her love had forgotten 
her duties in the hermitage, she had to suffer cruel 
rebuff and practical banishment in sorrow. The lusty 
love of tTrva^I was punished by her being turned into a 
creeper. Thus, the poet Kalidasa, when describing the 
passion of love, is always careful to demonstrate that 
hama should not in its intensity transgress the 
dharma. But the same poet was not in the least 
perturbed in giving us glowing experiences of conjugal 
satisfaction that took place between Siva and Parvati, or 
conjugal yearning in the case of the Yaksa for his 

1 iye$a sd kartumabandhya-rupatam samddhimdsthdya tapobhir- 

dtmanah \ 

avdpyate vd kathamanyathadvayvm tathdvidham prema patisca tddr- 

Kumarasambhava 9 Canto V, 2. 



The ideal 

beloved spouse. Kama in itself is not undesirable or 
bad, but when it transgresses dharma it becomes 
wicked. The kama of King Agnivarna in Raghu- 
vaniSa led to his destruction. It is for this reason 
that the Sanskrit poets of India instead of por- 
traying mere characters or giving expression to ardent 
love or other sentiments as such, or devising their 
plots at random from their everyday sphere of ex- 
periences, had to adopt a particular scheme, a frame- 
work of types, within which limitations they had to 
give vent to their poetic effusions. The scheme or 
the frame should be such that the .fundamental principle 
that dharma, artha and kama should not transgress marga ' 
one another leading to disastrous results, may 
be observed. But here again, with the exception 
of Bhasa, most of the writers had conformed to the 
poetic convention that no drama should end with 
disastrous consequences. Here again, a drama as an 
work of art was regarded as a whole, as a cycle com- 
plete in itself. A drama ending with disastrous 
consequences would be a mutilated piece from the 
world of our experience it would merely mean that 
the cycle has not been completed, or that it is only 
a partial view and not the whole. Inspite of the 
charge of pessimism often laid at the door of Indian 
thought by the Westerners, it should be noted that 
the Indians who admit, sorrow as a partial aspect of 
things would regard it as negative in the conception 
of the whole or totality. A drama in its totality must 
aim at some realisation. It is for this reason that the 
fully developed drama, viz., a nataka, should have in it 
five critical situations called the mukha, pratimukha, 
Ijarbha, vimarta and nirvahana. Thus in the drama 
Ratnavali, the love of Sagarika at seeing the king 
Udayana at first sight, introduces the main theme 

an epitome 
of life. 

The five 


of the drama which would culminate in the end in 
the happy union of tldayana with Sagarika. This 
is the seed, as it were, which would fructify in 
the whole drama. This seed of first love was some- 
what obscured by the artifice of the king and other 
events that followed, but its shoot is again manifested 
when in Act II through the arrangement of Susangata 
king Udayana and Sagarika met each other. This is 
called the pratimukha-sandhi. The garbha-sandhi is 
that in which there are obstructive events which lead 
the reader to doubt whether the hopes raised would be 
fulfilled or not. Thus, when in Sakuntala we have 
the curse of Durvasa and later on, the repulsion of 
Sakuntala by the king in the Court, and her dis- 
appearance, we have the garbha-sandhi. Later on, 
when at the sight of the ring the king is reminded of 
Sakuntala, we have the vimarta-sandhi, or inspite of 
the obstruction and doubt, the reader is again 
encouraged to hope and is partially satisfied with regard 
to the expected union. The last nirvahana-sandhi is 
that in which the king Dusyanta becomes again united 
with Sakuntala in Act VII. Thus the five critical 
situations constitute a unity, an epitome of our life as 
a whole. Life has its crises, its difficulties and 
disappointments, but we have always to be hopeful 
regarding the final fulfilment. The drama is thus the 
reflection of life as a whole from the Indian point of 
view and contains its own philosophy. The critics, 
however, recommend further divisions of each of the 
critical stages into which we need not enter. What 
is important to note here is the general review of 

of Drama has several forms, viz., nataka, prakarana? 
nfitifefl, prakarani, vyayoga, samavakftra, bhclna, 
dttna, utsrtikahka, lhamrga, vlthi and prahasana. The 


ptakarana deals with the plot consisting of the 
characters of ordinary people, such as the minister, 
Brahmin, merchant and the like and the plot generally 
is the poet's own invention, or taken from historical 
episodes. Thus Malatlmadhava is a prakarana. The 
heroine may either be a wife or a courtesan. In Mrccha- 
katika we have a courtesan as a heroine and in Malatl- 
madhava a wife. The other characters belong also 
to the sphere of common people. Among the women 
characters we have the procuresses and other common 
women. In a prakarana there are generally troublous 
events and the principal hero is of a patient and 
peaceful temperament (dhiratanta) . The natika is 
a mixture of nataka and prakarana. The principal 
sentiment is generally love and the hero is generally 
of a soft and amorous temperament. It generally 
deals with the characters of kings. The hero king 
is always afraid of the queen in carrying on his amor- 
ous adventures. There are more heroines than heroes. 
It may be of one, two, three or four Acts. A bhana 
portrays the character of a knave or rogue (dhurta), 
wherein only one person acts in imaginary dialogues, 
i.e., behaving as if the actor was responding to the 
question or speech of another and it consists only of 
one Act and it may include dancing as v^ll. Though 
there is but only one actor, he carries on dialogues 
with imaginary persons not present on the stage. It 
may also include singing. Sometimes one may sit and 
recite with gestures. It generally portrays the amorous 
sentiment and sometimes heroism, The prahasana 
consists in portraying the sentiment of the ludicrous 
generally at the expense of the religious sects ; the 
actors and actresses are generally courtesans and their 
associates and the members of the sects at whose 
expense the fun is being enjoyed. It generally consists 


of one Act. A dima portrays the behaviours and 
characters of ghosts and ghostly beings, Gandharvas, 
Yakas and Baksasas. It generally portrays the senti- 
ment of anger and that of the loathsome and disgusting 
and treats of dreadful things like the eclipse, the 
thunder and the comet. It generally consists of four 
Acts and has four critical situations. As examples of 
this, one may refer to the Tripuradaha, Vrtroddharana 
and Tdrakoddharana . A vyayoga has for its hero either 
gods or kings and has but few actors, three, four or 
five, but not exceeding ten. The two critical situa- 
tions, garbha and vimar$a are absent. It describes 
generally deeds of violence and fighting, but the 
fighting is not for the sake of any woman. It generally 
deals with the happenings of one particular day. A 
samavakara deals with legendary episodes of the con- 
flict between the gods and demons. It generally deals 
with the sentiment of heroism and generally consists 
of three Acts of three different times. It portrays siege 
of cities or battles or stormy destructions or destructions 
through fire. The Samudramanthana by Vatsaraja is 
a good illustration of samavakara. A mthi consists 
of one Act, like the Vakulavithi. It generally portrays 
the sentiment of love and is sometimes accompanied 
with dancing and amorous gestures and generally there 
is one or two actors. The utsrstikdhka deals with 
a known legend or a fairy tale and portrays cruel deeds 
and battles. Many young women are introduced as 
weeping and sorrowing. Though full' of dreadful 
events, it would end in peace. Generally it contains 
three Acts. Actual killing should not be shown on the 
stage though sometimes violation of this rule is seen, 
as in the utsrstikanka called the Nagananda, where 
Jimiitavahana dies on the stage. An lhamrga portrays 
fighting for the sake of women and the hero may be 


godly or human and there may be great fights for the 
possession of heavenly nymphs. There are generally 
four Acts and the plot is derived from well-known stories 
modified by the dramatist. 

A review of these various forms of dramatic per- 
formance sheds some new light upon the problem of the 
evolution of the drama. Of these various forms of the 
drama it is only the ndtaka and the prakarana that 
may be regarded as full-fledged dramas. Of these two, 
again, the ndtaka should be based upon a well-known 
story and the hero, who is generally a king, should be 
possessed of all kingly qualities. Though the story should 
be derived only from legends, yet whatever may be im- 
proper or undesirable should be left out. There should 
be many characters in it and there should be the 
five sandhis and a proper balance between the various 
Acts. The sentiment to be portrayed should be either 
heroic or amorous and nothing that may be shocking, 
dreadful or shameful should be shown on the stage. 
It should consist of at least five Acts and it should not 
have more than ten Acts and each Act should contain 
the event of one day or half a day. The Vikramorvasl 
is a five-Act drama, the Rdmdbhyudayaa, six-Act drama, 
the Sakuntala a seven-Act drama, the Nalavikrama an 
eight- Act drama, the Deviparinaya a nine-Act drama and 
the Bdlardmdyana a ten-Act drama. The ndtaka form 
of drama is regarded as the best and it is supposed to 
contribute todfearma, artfeaand kdma inconsistency with 
each other. 1 The prakarana resembles the ndtaka, only 

ato hi nfyakasya'sya pr&thamyarp parikalpitam I 
wafj/o-fledan* vidhayadavwin&ha pit&mahalj, I 
dharmadi-sadhanavp natyarp, sarva-duhkhd-panodanam I 
dsevadhvam tadrsayas tasyotthanam iu nafakam I 
divya-manufa-saipyogo yatrdhkairavidfyakaih II 

BhAvapraltaiana of Sarsdatanaya VIII, pp. 287.238. 

ixxxv i 


istics of 
some other 
forms of the 

the plot here may be either legendary or concocted by 
the poet, It also contributes to dharma, artha and 
kama, but the characters are not taken from the higher 
sphere. There may be courtesans here or legally 
married wives or damsels in the state of courtship 
but they are all taken from the bourgeois, such as in 
the Mrcchakatika or the Malatimadhava. The natika 
like the Ratnavall or the Priyadarsika also deals with 
characters of the higher sphere and they are generally 
of the amorous type. There is not in it any attempt 
to contribute to dharma, artha and kama in mutual 
consistency. We thus find that it has not the same high 
purpose as the nataka or the prakarana. This 
accounts for the fact that natakas have been more popu- 
lar and we have an immensely larger number of natakas 
than any other form of the drama. This is consistent 
with the ideal of the realisation of trivarga, i.e., 
dharma, artha and kama, in dramatic performance. It 
also accounts for the fact that we have so few of the 
prahasana and the bhana, which are farces and parodies 
from common life. There may have been the earlier 
forms of popular play which gradually dwindled away 
into forgetfulness with the pronounced and pointed 
development of the ideal of trivarga among people in 
general, and we perceive that as time advanced the ideal 
of dharma as. a purpose of drama was more and more 
definitely demanded. When with the Mahomedan 
occupation the religious practices ceased to be encourag- 
ed by kings, people wanted to be reminded of the old 
ideals of holy characters in dramatic plays and this 
explains the fact why after the 12th or the 13th century 
we have such a superabundance of Epic kavyas and 
dramas with religious themes. 

Taken at random, of about 68 dramatic pieces after 
the 12th century A.D., we find that the plot of about 



41 of them were taken from the religious legends and 
only 27 from the secular legends, mostly built upon the 
story available from Gunacjhaya's source. Of these 41 
dramatic pieces drawn from the religious legends, 27 
are natakas, one is a prakarana, 3 are vyayogas, 2 
dimas, one Ihdmrga, 4 utsrstikahkas, 2 samavakaras. 
Of the 27 dramatic pieces from secular sources, 6 are 
natakas, 11 prakaranas, 3 prahasanas, 2 vtthis, 4 
natikas and one lhamrga. We thus see that the natakas 
by far exceeded all other forms of dramatic compositions 
and most of them ^were taken from religious legends. 
All vyayogas (three), dimas (two), utsrstikahkas (four) 
and samavakaras (two) are religious. There is one 
secular lhamrga and one religious. The bhana and the 
prahasana cannot by nature be religious and we have 
only 4 prahasanas including the Hasyacudamani, and 
there is one bhana called the Karpuracarita. Among 
those derived from secular legends, there are some 
natakas , prakaranas, two vtthis and 4 natikas. The 
dima, we have already seen, deals with episodes of 
supernatural beings like the ghosts and goblins. The 
vyayoga and the samavakdra deal generally with dreadful 
events, battles between the demons and the gods and 
it is probable that they existed as the earlier forms 
of dramatic representations portraying the defeats of the 
asuras and the aboriginal races in their conflict with 
the Aryans. The bhana and the prahasana were 
generally comic representations from popular life of a 
lower status and they displayed no moralising tendency. 
These were the first to disappear. Those dramatic 
forms of representation like the vyayoga, dima and 
samavakara which represented military valour, anger 
or irascibility of temper, could not also stand, as with 
the distance of time actual episodes. of battles, etc., 
which had at one time agitated the public mind and 

of religions 
motive ID 
the dramatic 

tics of differ- 
ent types of 
the drama. 



The subjects 
of dramas 
and Epics 
are mostly 
taken from 

represented the mock triumph of the Aryan people 
over their neighbours, ceased to interest the public 
mind. The fact that Bbasa, whose works are the 
earliest representatives of our dramatic literature now 
available, gives equal importance to these as to the 
natakas indicates the possibility of their existence in 
larger numbers in earlier times which are now lost. It 
is remarkable to note that Bhasa also draws upon 
religious legends in a large measure. Of the two 
fragmentary dramas of A^vaghosa, one is the Sariputra- 
prakarana and the other is a religious allegory like the 
Prabodha-candrodaya of later times, and the religious 
motive is apparent in both of them. 

In the drama of later times, i.e., from the 12th to 
the 18th century, taking a review of about 33 dramas, 
we find that almost all of them are based on either the 
Rama or the Krsna legend. Hardly any drama had 
been written during this period which may be said to 
have been based upon the story-material of Gunacjhya 
which in the later centuries before Christ and through- 
out many centuries after the Christian era supplied 
materials to so many dramas. The same thing may be 
said with more emphasis regarding the Epic kavyas. 
With the exception of the Carita-kavyas or biographical 
epics there have hardly been any Epic kavyas through- 
out the centuries which have not been based on the reli- 
gious legends. Valmiki's Ramayana, the Mahabharata 
and the Kj^na legends from the Puranas had stood as 
inexhaustible stores from which poets could either 
borrow or adapt legends with modifications for their 
kavya. The Prafasti kavyas were all inspired with 
feelings of loyalty to great kings or patrons and such 
loyalty could be compared only to devotion to God. 
Thus, both in the dramas and in the kavyas the scope of 
the poet's treatment was limited by the considerations 



of trivarga-siddhi. The Sanskrit poets were as a rule 
very fond of delineating the amorous sentiment or the 
sentiment of love. But they could give play to the 
portrayal of their erotic predilections only in a limited 
manner in the kavyas and the dramas so far as is con- 
sistent with normal, social and conjugal rules of life ; 
but in this sphere the elaborate description of feminine 
beauty and post-nuptial amorous enchantments gave the 
poets sufficient scope to indulge in their tendency to 
give expression to passions and longings. Long sepa- 
rations were also good situations for portraying amorous 

But whether in literature or not, the bodily side of 
the passion or the structural conditions of feminine 
beauty have found a place of importance and except in 
the works of a few artists or poets, the representations 
of the physical side seem to our taste to be rather crude. 
It does not, of course, prove that the passion was 
burning more in the blood of the Hindus than in the 
blood of other races. It probably simply means that 
kama being one of the constituents of trivarga, voluptu- 
ousness and sensuality and appreciation of feminine 
beauty as sanctioned by dharma was quite innocent and 
had nothing to be abashed of. The passion of kama, 
as has been mentioned above, had two spheres, one that 
was enjoined by dharma where non-indulgence of the 
passions would be a punishable sin, and the other when 
it was not enjoined by dharma but when such indul- 
gence did not transgress the limits of dharma. So the 
poets also portrayed passionate love in the latter sphere 
and these portrayals in the satakas and elsewhere form 
some of the best specimens of Sanskrit amorous poetry. 
It has been said above that the drama or Epic kQvya 
was looked upon in this country not as a portrayal of 
any scene of life or any characters that came within the 

The place of 
love as a 
member of 
the trivarga 

in literature. 

T 1Q4QT) 


experience of the poet but that they were generally 
regarded as giving an epitome of complete life either of 
the great religious heroes or of kings famous in 
traditional or legendary accounts. Evem the story of 
Gunadhya had a sanctified atmosphere about it on 
account of the fact that it was often believed that it was 
originally narrated by Lord Siva to Parvatl (hara- 
mukhodgirnd). It is on this account that in the great 
kavyas where royal life was depicted, wars and battles, 
svayanivaras, kingly magnanimity and royal episodes of 
love were narrated and in dramas also which were not 
professedly of a didactic character, the principal subject- 
matter was an episode of love and on some occasions 
heroism also. 

It is on account of a loyalty ingrained deeply in the 
of indUn mental structure of Hindu life that Hindu creations 

either in art, literature or philosophy have always 
followed the course of creating types, where individual- 
ity has always remained shy to express itself in its full 
height. Thus, in philosophy also we do not get a free 
response of thought moving forward largely untramelled 
by conditions, but always leaning towards certain fixed 
points which are like the Cartesian co-ordinates deter- 
mining its exact situation. Thus, almost every Indian 
philosophy should admit the validity of the Vedas, the 
doctrine of re-birth or transmigration, the possibility of 
salvation and the root-cause of the world as being some 
form of ignorance. Within these limits each system of 
Indian philosophy develops its own views and predilec- 
tions. Each system can criticise the above concepts, 
may explain its theory of knowledge and the nature of 
the world, a concept of bondage and salvation and the 
ways that may be adopted for that. So in art also, 
most forms of pictorial or statuary art and even the 
architectural art of India would have some message tq 

iNtKObtCTlON fcci 

communicate and a physical portrayal would rather 
sacrifice its faithfulness to nature in the interest of the 
message to be communicated rather than be realistic 
and devote itself only to the delineation of beauty. 

Under these circumstances, an Epic is supposed to 
have for its hero some king or kings of the same race. 
The story must be taken from a legend. It should 
include within it deprecatory remarks about evil deeds 
and the edification of the noble, description of natural 
scenes, mountains, forests and oceans, morning r evening A 
and the seasons. 

Every kind of human production, literature, music, 
fine arts, philosophy, science, state-craft, has for its 
direct cause a moral disposition or a combination of ?/ J * nd 

L literature. 

moral dispositions which seems somehow internally to 
determine these products. The conditions of race, 
epoch and environmental conditions and circumstances 
bring out to prominence certain moral conditions which 
are suited to the production of particular types of archi- 
tecture, painting, sculpture, music or poetry. Each has 
its special law and it is by virtue of this law, acciden- 
tally as it may appear, that development takes place 
amidst the diversion of its neighbours, like painting in 
Flanders and Holland in the 17th century, poetry in 
England in the 16th century, music in Germany in the 
18th. At such times in such countries the conditions are 
fulfilled for one art rather than for another. There is 
a special kind of psychology, a mental perspective 
required for the development of each of these arts. 
There is a peculiar inner system of impressions and 
operations which makes an artist, a believer, a musician, 
a painter, a wanderer, or a man of society. Literature 
is like living monuments of the outstanding personalities 
of different times. Literature is instructive because it 
is beautiful. Its utility depends upon its perfection. 

It deals with visible and almost tangible sentiments 
and the more a book represents the important sentiment 
of the people the higher is its place in literature. It is 
by representing the mode of being of the whole Nature 
of a whole age that a writer can collect round him the 
sympathies of an entire age and an entire nation. It is 
not mere catechisms or chronicles that can impress 
upon us the inner nature of a person or a nation. It is 
the inner movement of sentiments and interests, ideals 
and emotions made living through artistic expression, 
that can hold before us the life of a people. 

It is curious to notice that Indian life and manners 

continued to present a pattern for decades of centuries. 

There was growth and development but more or less on 

the same line. It was only after the Mahammadan 

invasion and finally with the occupation of the country 

by the British that the system of its life and manners 

and even the psychology of the people has undergone a 

rude change a change which at the first shock had 

stunned the mind of the people with the advent of the 

new sciences, new ways of thought, new perspectives 

which brought with it the whole history of Western 

culture with its massive strength hurled against the 

Indian people. During the first 130 years or so the 

nerve of the Indian mind was almost paralysed by this 

rude shock and during the past 50 years the Indian 

mind is again trying to undersfand the value of the 

contribution of this culture and has been trying to 

become self-conscious and rise above its influence a 

fact which may be well appreciated not only by the 

growing political consciousness and demand for freedom 

but also from the history of the Bengali literature, 

culminating in the literature of Poet Eabindranath in 

whose writings we find a clear and concrete method as 

to how the Western culture can be synthesised with the 


Indian genius without submitting and drooping down 
before the former but rising above it and yet assimila- 
ting its best fruits and introducing such changes in our 
outlook and perspective as are consonant with our past 
and yet capable of assimilating the new for a creative 

The reason of the continuity of Indian culture is O f Indian* 7 
largely to be found in the insular character of our civi- cultnre - 
lisation and the extreme doggedness and obstinacy 
amounting to haughtiness and national pride rising to 
the level of religion against the conscious acceptance of 
any contribution from any foreigner. This could be 
possible largely because of the fact that this national 
pride had become identified with our religion. Our 
legal literature is called Dharmat&stra or religious litera- 
ture. Manners, customs, professions and the like, the 
creation of our social classes with their restricted duties, 
divisions of life into different stages with their ordained 
duties, are not for us mere social adjustments due to 
diverse social and environmental causes but it has been 
the essence of Hindu religion. The Smrtis or the Indian 
legal literature has codified for every member of every 
social class the nature of his duties. The law is not 
merely for regulating our conduct to our fellow- 
beings but for regulating the entire course of our 
daily life, eating, drinking and the like from birth 
to death. Though at different times people have more 
or less deviated from the strict programme laid down 
by the Smrtis, yet, on the whole, the social life has 
strictly and uniformly followed not only the general 
scheme laid by the Smrtis but also most of the 
particular details. I have said above that the stringent 
grip of the Smrtis became more and more tightened 
with the advance of centuries. Thus, for example, the 
prescriptions of the medical science aa regards food and 


drink as found in the Caraka in the 1st century A.D,, 
is found wholly unacceptable in the legal literature of 
later times. Restrictions of food and drink and 
various other kinds of conduct and practice became 
more and more stringent, signifying thereby a 
slackening tendency in society. 

Marx has said that division of the social classes 
has always been the result of conflict between the 
capitalists and the working classes and that the 
development of social culture, the production of 
literature, philosophy, music and the like, is the result 
of the change in economic conditions and means of 
production. But both these theses seem to lose their 
force in the case of India. Here we have the develop- 
ment of philosophy, art and literature though there 
has practically been no change in the means of 
economic production. for more than 2,000 years. The 
Brahmins had a position which was even greater than 
that of a king, not to speak of a Vaisya capitalist, and 
yet there was no theocracy in India like the Papal 
domination of the West or like the system of the Caliphs 
in Islam. The Brahmins were poor and self-abnegating 
persons who generally dedicated their lives to learning 
and teaching and to the practice of religious works. 
They did not interfere with the rules of kings except when 
some of them were appointed ministers but they laid 
down a scheme of life and a scheme of conduct which 
had to be followed by all persons from the king to the 
tanner. It was this enforcement of a universal scheme 
of life that often protected the people from misrule and 
tyranny on the part of kings. It is no doubt true that 
in a few exceptions there had been tyranny and 
misrule, but on the whole the kings had to follow a 
beneficent scheme for it was the law. It is principally 
at the time of the Mauryas that we find many laws 



introduced which were advantageous to the king but 
the Mauryas were Sudras. At the time of the Ksatriya 
kings we again find the laws of Srnjli revived. The 
caste system had already come into force in its 
stringency in the 4th century B.C. Thus, Megasthenes 
says: "No one is allowed to marry out of his own 
caste or to exchange one profession or trade for another 
or to follow more than one business/' The existence 
of the caste system means the allocation of particular 
duties in society to particular castes. The union of 
the Ksatriya and the Brahmana, of the king and the 
law-giver in the council, was at the basis of the 
Hindu Government. There was a joint- family system 
very similar to what they had in Rome, but every 
individual member bad a locus standi in the eye of the 
law and the father of the family was like the trustee 
of the family property. The king and the Brahmin 
were the trustees of society, the king by protecting and 
enforcing the laws of dharma and the Brahmin by 
promulgating them. The Brahmins, as it were, were 
the legislators, and the kings, the executives and the 
former were, so far as the legislation went, independent 
of the latter. This legislation, however, referred not 
only to ordinary juridical conduct but to all kinds of 
daily duties and conduct as well. But when the laws 
were codified, though the Brahmin as a purohita or 
priest retained his position of high honour and respect 
from the king, he was no longer a constituent of the 
Government. Thus, the seven ahgas constituting the 
state (svamya-matya-suhrt-kofa-rdstra'durga-baldni ca, 
i.e., king, councillor, allies, treasury, people and 
territory, fortresses and army), did not include 
Brahmins as a constituent. Gradually the importance 
of the king's office gained in strength as subserving the 
primary needs and interests of the people and the 

tion a Lid 
structure of 


preservation of the society according to the principles 
of dharma. But even the king was bound to dispense 
justice in accordance with the principles of dharma* 
The dispensation of justice was not only necessary for 
social well-being but punishment was also regarded as 
having a purificatory value for a man's post-mortem 
well-being. The unrighteousness of a king destroys 
dharma in the society and creates social disturbances 
as well as physical misfortunes, such as, untimely 
death, famine and epidemic. Thus the dispensation 
of justice and its failure was regarded not only as 
having immediate but also transcendental effects. 
The king thus had a great responsibility. The king 
exists for the discharge of dharma and not for self- 
gratification (dharmaya raja bhavati na kamaharanaya 
ideal of tu). Almost all the sciences of polity are in thorough 
m iaw fl and agreement with the view that a king must first of all 
politl>8> be absolutely self-controlled. But in spite of all these, 
there were teachers like Bharadvaja who would advise 
any kind of unprincipled action for the maintenance of 
the king's power. But this was not accepted by most 
of the political authorities, but Kautilya's code leaned 
more or less to this type of action. In the Mahabharata 
we find many passages in which the role of punishment 
is extolled and Brhaspati also held that view. Side by 
side with the view of divine authority of kings we have 
also in the Mah&bharata and the Buddhist canons the 
view that the king was elected by the people on the 
terms of contract which involved the exchange of the 
just exercise of sovereign power and obedience regarding 
payment of taxes on the part of the people. In 
Kautilya we find that he had due regard for the 
social order of varnaframa and he regarded the 
importance of the three Vedas, the Varta-astra and 
Polity. Kau^ilya lays great importance on the position 


of the king's office. The king constitutes within 
himself his kingdom and his subjects. Yet there are 
many passages in the Arthaastra to indicate that king's 
authority depends upon the will of the people whom he 
,has always to keep satisfied, and we find there that it is 
the duty of the king to promote the security and 
prosperity of the people in lieu of which the subjects 
should pay taxes to him. Kau^ilya is also mainly 
loyal to the DharmaSastra principle that the king is an 
official who is entitled to receive taxes for the service 
of protection and that he is spiritually responsible for 
the discharge of his duties. Kautilya also lays down 
a very high standard of moral life for the king. Good 
education and self-control are the first requisites of good 
government. Though there are elaborate rules of 
foreign policy, Kautilya definitely lays down the view 
that no king should covet his neighbour's territories, 
and in case of battles with other kings it is his duty to 
restore to throne the most deserving from the near rela- 
tions of the vanquished king a policy entirely different 
from that of the imperialistic governments of to-day. A 
king should only attempt to secure safety for his kingdom 
and extend his influence on others. In later times, 
between 900 and 1200 A.D., when the commentaries of 
Medhatithi, Vijnanesvara and Apararka and the Jaina 
Nltivakyamrta were written, we have the view, parti- 
cularly in Medhatithi, that the principles of rdjadharma 
and dandaniti, though principally derived from Vedic 
institutions, are to be supplemented from other sources tbf king!* f 
and elaborated by reason. Thus, Medbatithi would not 
restrict the office of kingship to a Ksatriya alone but 
would extend it to any one who is ruling with proper 
kingly qualities. Kalidasa also, we have seen, was 
consistent with the teaching of the old Dharmatiastra 
that the term ksatra was in meaning identical to the 


term nrpa. Ksatra means ksatdt trdyate and nrpa 
means nrn pati. The other aspect of the king is that 
he should be popular, and this aspect is signified by 
the term raja (raja prakrtiranjanat). But Medhatithi 
uses the term raja, nrpa or pdrthiva to mean any ruling 
prince. Medhatithi would apply the term nrpa even to 
provincial governors. The subjects have the inalien- 
able right of protection by the king by virtue of the 
taxes they pay to him, and for any mischief that comes 
to them, the king is responsible. If their property is 
stolen, the king will restore the value of the articles 
stolen. It seems also that Medhatithi not only concedes 
to the view that the subjects may even in normal times 
bear arms for self -protection, but when the king is 
incompetent, they have also the right to rebel and 
suspend the payment of taxes. But during the 12th to 
the 17th century in the works of Sukra, Madhava and 
Para4ara, we find again the theory of divine right of 
kings coming to the forefront and the doctrine of the 
perpetual dependence of subjects on the king and of the 
king's immunity from harm advocated, which tended 
to contradict the earlier concept of king as the servant 
of the people. 

From the above brief review we can well understand 
the light in which the kings were held during the 
really creative period of literature beginning from the 
2nd or the 3rd century B. C. to the 12th century A.D. 
The ideal of a king depicted in the Ramayana and also 
in the Mahabharata as also in the works of Kalidasa and 
other writers, reveals to us the integral relation of soli- 
darity between the king and the subjects. Almost every 
drama ends with the prayer which is a sort of national 
anthem seeking the good of the king and the people. The 
concept of the king involved the principle that he would 
protect the people and be of such ideal character and 



conduct that he might be liked by all. The term 
prakrti, etyrnologically meaning the source or origin, 
was a term to denote the subjects. This implied that the 
king drew his authority from the subjects. This is the 
reason why the kings often excited as much admiration 
as the gods and though many panegyric verses in lite- 
rature may have as their aim the flattery of kings for 
personal gain, yet judging from the general relation 
between the king and his subjects it can hardly be doubt- 
ed that in most cases there was a real and genuine feeling 
of sincere admiration and love for the king. This also 
gives us the reason why royal characters were treated, 
in kavya side by aide with the characters of gods, for 
the king was god on earth not by his force or his power 
of tyranny but through love and admiration that was 
spontaneous about him on the part of the subjects. 
The cordial relation between subjects and royal 
patrons explains the origin of so many pra fasti and 
carita kdvyas, 

If we take a bird's-eye view of the Sanskrit litera- 
ture we may classify them as Epic and Lyric kdvyas, 
the carita kavyas (dealing with the lives of kings and 
patrons of learning), the praastis or panegyrical verses, 
the different types of dramas, lyric kavyas, the century 
collections or satakas, the stotra literature or adoration 
hymns, the Campus or works written in prose and 
verse, the kathd, literature, the nlti literature, the 
didactic verses and stray verses such as are found in the 
anthologies. The sources of the materials of kavya as 
held by Raja&khara, are Sruti, Smrti, Purana, Itih&sa, 
Pramanavidya, Samaya-vidya or the sectarian doctrines 
of the Saivas, Pancaratrins, etc., the Artha6astra, the 
Natyaastra and the K&matastra, the local customs 
and matiners, the different sciences and the literature 
of other poets. 

The place 
of King and 
in litera- 

Types of 


Apart from the reference to poems written by Paijini 
and to the dramas referred to in the Mahabhasya, 
probably the earliest remains of good drama are the 
dramas of Bhasa, which in some modified manner have 
recent ty ^ een discovered. In the 1st century B.C. we 
and the have the works of Kalidasa and in the 1st century A.D. 


poetry. we have the Buddha-carita, the Saundarananda, the 
3ariputraprakarana and an allegorical drama written 
by A6vaghoa, the Buddhist philosopher. This was the 
time of the Sungas, the Kanvas and the Andhra dynas- 
ties. Pusyamitra had slain his master Brhadratha 
Mauryya and had assumed sovereignty of the Mauryya 
dominions of'Upper India and of South India up to the 
Nerbudda and had repulsed Minander, king of Kabul 
and the invader was obliged to retire to his own 
country. His son Agnimitra had conquered Berar and 
Pusyamitra performed the Asvamedha sacrifice and 
revived Hinduism. The Mdlavikagnimitra of Kalidasa 
gives a glowing account of the Rajasuya sacrifice 
performed by Pusyamitra. The Buddhist writers 
describe him as having persecuted the Buddhists. The 
last Bunga king Devabhuti lost his life and throne 
through the contrivances of his Brahmin minister, 
Vasudeva. He founded the Kanva dynasty, which was 
suppressed in 28 B.C. and the last Kanva king, Su^ar- 
man, was slain by the Andhras, who had already 
established themselves by the middle of the 3rd century 
B.C. on the banks of the Krsna. The Andhra kings all 
claimed to belong to the Satavahana family. The name 
of Hala the 17th king has come down to us because of 
his Saptaati of Prakrt erotic verses of great excellence. 
It seems that at this time Prakrt rather than Sanskrit 
was the language of poetry in the South. It is difficult 
to ascertain the dates of Hala's Saptatati (which 
have, however, in reality 430 stanzas common to all 



recensions, the rest may be an interpolation). Judging 
from the nature of the Prakrt, one may think that the 
work was probably written about 200 A.D. though it is 
difficult to be certain of its date. In the meanwhile, 
we have some of the specimens of the earliest prose in 
the inscriptions of Kudradamana in Girnar (A.D. 150). 
In the region of Bombay we get foreign rulers like the 
Kaharatas who were probably subordinate to the Indo- 
Parthian kings in the 1st century A.D. The next 
chief was Nahapana. The Ksaharatas, however, were 
extirpated by Gautamiputra-Satakarni, the Andhra 
king. His son, Va&sthiputra Sripulumayi, had married 
the daughter of Rudradarnana I, the Saka Satrap 
of Ujjayini, but much of the territory of the son-in- 
law was conquered by the father-in-law. As we 
have just seen, Sanskrit was the court language of 
Eudradamana and Yajfiafri, the son of Vasisthiputra 
Sripulumayi, who was a great king of military exploits 
(173-202 A.D.). The fall of the Andhra kings coincides 
approximately with the death of Vasudeva, the last 
great Kusan king of North Ipdia and with the rise 
of the Sassanian dynasty of Persia (A.D. 226). 
But the history of the 3rd century after Christ is 
rather very obscure. The only important tradition 
of literary growth during the Andhras is the legend 
about king Satavahana or Salivahana, in whose court 
Gunadhya and Sarvavarmacarya are supposed to have 
lived. Gunadhya was born at Pratithana in the Deccan 
on the banks of the Godavarl. This city of Prati^hana 
is the capital of the Andhrabhrtyas, though there is 
much doubt about the location of the city. But there 
is a Pratisthana on the banks of the Gauges as men- 
tioned in the Harivamta. Bana refers to Satavahana 
as having made the immortal repertory of beautiful 
passages and this seems to indicate that there was great 

conditions in 
the lat tnd 
2nd centuries 
B.C. andibe 
literature of 
tbe time. 


cultivation of Sanskrit poetry even before Satavahana. 1 
According to the legend, Satavahana's adopted father 
8srvavaim&. wftg Dip a jk ar jjj an( j this indicates that he may have 

belonged to the race of the Satakarnis. The Hala 
Sapta$ati also conclusively proves that there was an 
abundant literary production in the Praki\lauguage 
and we have also strong reasons to believe that there 
must have been many dramas in Prakrt. But we do 
not know anything more about the exact time when 

Hala may have flourished. But if the legend is to 
be believed, the two great works, the K&tantra of 
Sarvavarma and the Brhatkatha of Gunacjhya were 
written at this time. That stories used by Gunadhya 
were floating about among the populace, is well evident 
from Kalidasa's statement udayana-katha-kovida-grama- 
vrddhan in the Meghaduta and the utilisation of those 
stories by Bbasa. We know that in all probability, 
Kalidasa had flourished at the time of the- later Surigas 
and Patanjali the grammarian was probably engaged 
as a priest in the Horse Sacrifice of Puijyamitra. We 
also know that the Saka kings like Rudradamana had 
taken to the Sanskrit language and Vainava religion. 
We also know from the inscriptions in the Besnagar 
Column that the Greek ambassador Heliodorus had 
accepted the Bhagavata religion. It is also probable 
th^Minander the Greek king had become a Buddhist. 

'Mitbradates I, the Persian king (170-136 B.C.), 
had extended his dominions up to the Indus and this 
explains why the chiefs of Taxila and Mathura had 
assumed Persian titles in early times and we have the 
remains of Persian culture in the excavations of Taxila. 

ratnairiva 8ubha$itafy tt 



It is possible that a Christian Mission under St. 
Thomas had come to the court of the Indo-Parthian 
king Gondophares at the beginning of the Christian 
era, but the Mission seems to have left no impression. 
It may not be out of place here to mention that neither 
Alexander's conquest nor the association with Bactrian 
kings, seems to have left any permanent impression 
on the Indian mind. The Punjab or a considerable 
part of it with some of the adjoining regions remained 
more or "less under Greek rule for more than two centuries 
(190 B.C. to iiO A.D.), but except the coins bearing 
Greek legends on the obverse, hardly any effect of 
Hellenisation can be discovered. It is surprising that 
not a single Greek inscription is available. There is 
no evidence of Greek architecture. The well-known 
sculptures of Gandhara, the region around Peshawar, 
are much later indeed and are the offsprings of cosmo- 
politan Graeco-Roman art. The invasions of Alex- 
ander, Antiochus the Great, Demetrios, Eukratides and 
Minander were but military incursions which left no 
appreciable mark upon the institutions of India. The 
people of India rejected Greek political institutions 
and architecture as well as language. 

During the 2nd and the 3rd century, Saivism had 
established itself very firmly in South. The Siva 
cult had long been in existence among the Dravidians 
and by the 3rd century A.D. it attained almost its 
finished character in the noble and devout writings of 
Manikkavachakara in Malabar. The Vasudeva cult 
had already penetrated into the south and by the 3rd 
and the 4th century A.D. the earliest Alwar thinkers 
had started the Bhakti literature. 

In the meanwhile, the Yueh-chis being attacked by 
their foes, the Sakas, rushed forward and after subjugating 
Kabul, entered ioto India and conquered the Punjab 

of the 
Greeks If ft 
but little 
influence on 
culture and 

Saiva and 

in the early 
centuries fo 
the Chris. 
Man era. 

A career of 
the Sakat. 



of Indian 
Empire up 
to Khotan 
and in the 
west to 

converted to 

under Kadphises I. His son Kadphises II not only 
established his power in the Punjab but in a consider- 
able part of the Gangetic plain in Benares (A.D. 45). 
But these parts were probably governed at this time 
by military Viceroys. In the meanwhile, the Yueh- 
chis were being attacked by the Chinese. Kani?ka 
tried to repel the Chinese but his army was totally 
routed and he had to send several embassies to China 
to pay tributes. The conquest of Kabul by the Yueh- 
chis opened the land route towards the West and 
Roman gold of the early Roman Emperors, such as 
Tiberius (A.D. 14-38) began to pour into India 
in payment for eilk, spices, gems and dye-stuff. 
Southern India at the same time was holding an active 
maritime trade with the Roman Empire and large 
quantities of Roman gold poured into India. Now, 
Kadphises II was succeeded by Kaniska (58 B.C.). 
His dominions extended all over North-Western India 
as far as the Vindhyas. A temporary annexation of 
Mesopotamia by Trajan, the Roman Emperor, in 116 
A.D. brought the Roman frontier within 600 miles 
of the western limits of the Yueh-chi Empire. 
Kar\iska had also conquered Kashmir and attacked 
the city of Pataliputra from where he took away the 
Buddhist saint A^vaghosa. His own capital was 
Purugapur or Peshawar. Kaniska had also conquered 
Kashgar, Yarkand and Khotan. Thus the limits of 
the Indian Empire extended up to Khotan, a fact 
which explains the migration of Buddhist culture and 
Indian works which are being occasionally discovered 
there. The most important thing about him for our 
purposes is that he was converted to Buddhism, as 
may be known from his coins. Buddhism had in 
his time developed into the Mahayana form of which 
Avaghoa was such an important representative and 



the image of Buddha began to be installed in different 
parts of his Empire, taking a place with the older gods, 
such as Siva or Visnu and an elaborate mythology 
of Buddhism developed. It is at this time in the 2nd 
century A.D. that we have the style of sculpture 
described as the Gandhara school which was a branch 
of the cosmopolitan Graeco-Roman art. This style 
of art, which is much inferior to the indigenous Indian 
art, soon lost its currency. Kaniska called a council 
for the interpretation of Buddhist scriptures and about 
500 members of the Sarvastivada school met in 
Kashmir and the Buddhist theological literature under- 
went a thorough examination and elaborations were 
made in huge commentaries on the Tripitaka. This 
included the Mahavibhasa which still exists in its 
Chinese translation and it is said that these commen- 
taries were copied on sheets of copper and these were 
deposited in a stupa near Srlnagar. From the time of 
Kaniska we have the golden age of the development of 
Buddhist Mahayana and Sarvastivada literature as also 
the codification of most of the Indian philosophical 
sutras. The first five or six centuries of the Christian 
era were also the age of great philosophical controversy 
between the Buddhists, the Hindus and the Jainas. 
Asvaghosa himself had written the tfraddhotpada-sutra 
and the Mahayana-sutralahMra. It has been urged 
by Cowell that Kalidasa had borrowed from the 
Buddhacarita. But this point is very doubtful and 
the position may be reversed. The similarity of a few 
passages in the Kumarasambhava and the Raghuvarfifa 
does not prove any conscious indebtedness on any side, 
so far as A6vaghoa's Buddhacarita is concerned. A6va- 
ghosa also wrote a book pf Buddhist legends called the 
Sutralahkara and also the Vajrasucl. More or less about 
this time we had also the poet Matrceta and also the 

Else of the 
and the 

Rise of the 

of the timei 


Buddhist poet Arya-gura who wrote the JatakamalU 
in imitation of ASvaghosa's Sutralankara. His dic- 
tion in prose and verse was of the kavya style. Some of 
the important Avadanas were also written during the 
1st or the 2nd century A.D. The Aokavadana was 
actually translated into Chinese in the 3rd century A.D. 
It is curious to notice that these Avadanas which were 
written in Sanskrit, more or less at the time when 
the Brhatkathd of Gunadhya was written in Pai&icl, 
were seldom utilised by the Sanskrit writers. Many of 
the Avadana legends are found in Ksemendra's work so 
far as the essential part of the tales is concerned. But 
the didactic element is preponderatingly much greater 
in the Buddhist treatments. The great Mahay an a 
writers Nagarjuna, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Candragomin, 
Santideva and others began to follow in close succession. 
The Mahayana literature gradually began to model 
itself on the Puranas and the introduction of the 
Dharanis and other cults and rituals as well as the 
personification of powers into deities led to the rise of 
the Buddhist Tantras. The Lahhavatara, a semi-philo- 
sophical and semi-Tantrik work, was written probably 
sometime in the 4th century and later on the Yoga 
doctrine modified according to the psychology of the 
different people among the Tibetan, the Chinese and the 
Japanese assumed diverse forms. The stotra literature 
also formed the model of the Buddhist stotras and 
through this the theatre of the mental operation extended 
not only from the Hindukush to Cape ComDrin but it 
extended also to Further India, Tibet, China, Japan, 
Korea, the Malay -Archipelago and many islands in the 
Indian and the Pacific Ocean and also to Central Asia, 
Turkistan, Turf an and other places. 

The reign of Kaniska terminated in or about 123 A.D. 
After him Vasiska and Huviska succeeded and Huviska 



was succeeded by Vasudeva I. The name signifies that 
he was converted into Hinduism and his coins exhibit 
the figure of Siva attended by the bull, Nandi and the 
trident. Coins are found during the period 238-269 
A.D. where a royal figure clad in the garb of Persia (an 
imitation of the effigy of Shahpur I, the Sassanian) is 
found, which indicates Sassanian influence in India. 
But we have no more details of it from any inscriptions 
of literary eminence. Probably numerous Rajas in India 
asserted their independence as may be inferred from 
muddled statements in the Puranas, such as the 
Abhlras, Gardabhilas, Sakas, Yavanas, Vahlikas and 
the successors of the &ndhras. The imperial city of 
Pataliputra maintained its influence as late as the 5th 
century A.D. but we practically know nothing about 
the condition of the interior of India at this time. 

The local Raja near Pataliputra called Candragupta 
married a Licchavi princess named Kumaradevi about 
the year 308 A.D. We do not hear much of the 
Licchavis in the intervening period of history since the 
reign of Ajata&itru. Candragupta was strengthened 
by this alliance and he extended his dominion 
along the Gangetic Valley as far as the junction of the 
Ganges and the Jamuna, about 320 A.D. Between 330 
and 335 A.D. he was succeeded by his son Samudra- 
gupta who immediately after his succession plunged 
himself into war. The multitude of praSastis in the ins- 
criptions have immortalised his reign in Indian history. 
The elaborate composition of Harisena with its contents 
is a historical document which is remarkable also 
as a linguistic and literary landmark. Samudragupta's 
Empire extended on the North and the East from Kama- 
rflpa to Tamralipti including the modern site of Calcutta 
and extended westwards in a straight line across the 
Vindhyas to Guzerat and Sauratra later on acquired 


Rise of th 
G apt as. 


by his son Candragupta II and on the north 
to the borders of .Nepal up to the banks of the 
Cbenab river in the Punjab. He performed an 
Atvamedha ceremony and is reputed to have been 
an adept not only in music and song but it 
is said that he had also composed many metrical works 
of great value and was called a King of Poets. He 
allowed the Buddhist king Meghavarna of Ceylon to 
erect a monastery and temple in Buddhagaya. In the 
7th century when Hiuen-Tsang visited it, it was a 
magnificent establishment which accommodated 
1000 monks of the Sthavira school and afforded 
hospitality to monks from Ceylon. Samudragupta 
had also received Vasuvaridhu. Throughout his 
conquests he secured submission of the various 
chiefs but he seldom annexed their territory. He 
had removed his capital to Ayodhya from Pataliputra. 
Thus when Hiuen-Tsang came in the 7th century, 
he found Patalipufcra in ruins but when Raja&khara 
mentions the glory of Pataliputra, he refers to 
Upavarsa, Varsa, Panini, Pingala, Vyadi, Vararuci 
and Patanjali as having been tested according to the 
tradition in Pataliputra. 1 His successor Candragupta, 
who had assumed the title of Vikramaditya, led 
bis conquests to the Arabian Sea through Malwa, 
Guzerat and Kathiuwad, which had been ruled for 
centuries by the Saka dynasty. We know that the 
capital of Castana and his successors was Ujjayim. 
Vidisa was also the important centre of Agnimitra. 
But Samudragupta and his successors had made their 
capital in Ayodhya. It will therefore be wrong to 
suppose that one should make Kalidasa a resident of 
Ujjayini and yet make him attached to the court of 

, p. 55, 



Candragupta II. KaufiambI, which stood on the high 
road to UjjayinI and North India, had the Asoka pillar 
on which there is inscribed an inscription of Samudra- 
gupta and it has been argued that Kausamb! also 
formed his temporary place of residence. Candra- 
gupta II destroyed the Saka Satrapy by first dethroning 
and then executing Rudrasena. Though he was tole- 
rant of Buddhism and Jainism he was an orthodox 
Hindu and probably a Vaisnava. From Fa Hien's 
accounts (405-411 A.D.) we find that people were 
enjoying good government and abundant prosperity at 
the time of Vikramaditya. 

Still then there were monasteries in Pataliputra 
whereabout six to seven hundred monks resided, and Fa 
Hien spent three years there studying Sanskrit. At his 
time "charitable institutions, were numerous. Rest 
houses for travellers were provided on the highways 
and the capital possessed an excellent free hospital 
endowed by benevolent and educated citizens hither 
come all poor helpless patients suffering from all kinds 
of infirmities. They are well taken care of and a 
doctor attends them. Food and medicine are supplied 
according to their wants and thus they are made quite 
comfortable and when they are well they may go 
away." 1 In describing the state of the country Fa 
Hien speaks of the lenience of the criminal law. He 
further says : "throughout the country no one kills 
any living thing, or drinks wine or eats onions or 
garlic. They do not keep pigs or fowls, there are no 
dealings in cattle, no butchers' shops or distilleries in 
the market places. Only the candalas, hunters and 
fishermen lived a different way of life. The only source 
of revenue was rent on crown lands.' 2 - 2 - Fa Hien never 

gupta II. 

Fa Hien 'B 
the condi- 
tion of the 

Smith ' Early History of India, pp. 296-296. 


speaks of brigands or thieves. At the death of Candra- 

gupta, Kumaragupta I ascended the throne in 413 A.D. 

It will be wrong to suppose that Saivism spread 

from the South to the North for even Kadphises II, the 

Kusana conqueror, was an worshipper of Siva and put 

the image of Siva on his coins and during the whole" 

period when Buddhism acquired ascendency in India, 

Literature worship of Hindu gods had continued unabated. The 

of the time. . 

only distinctly Buddhist coins were those that 
were struck by Kaniska but the next king Vasudeva 
had been a Hindu, cis has already been mentioned, and 
the Saka Satraps were also Hindus. The Pali language 
of the Buddhists were reserved only for Buddhist reli- 
gious works. No kavya or drama were written in Pali 
and after A3oka it was seldom used as the language of 
inscriptions and even the language of Asoka's inscrip- 
tions was not Pali. Though we are unable to place 
Kalidasa in the Gupta period there was undoubtedly a 
great enlightenment of culture during the Gupta period 
which went on till the llth or the 12th century. We 
have not only at this time Vatsabhatti and Harisena 
but a galaxy of other writers. The panegyrics of both 
Harisena and Vatsabhatti illustrate the highest style that 
Sanskrit had attained at this period. Bharavi also 
probably lived in the 5th century and Bhat^i also in all 
probability lived somewhere during the 5th or the 6th 
century. It has been suggested that Sudraka may also 
have lived at this time, but we really know very little 
about Sudraka. Aryabhata,{the celebrated astronomer, 
also probably lived towards the end of the 5th or the 
middle of the 6th century. The laws of Manu as we 
find it and also of Yajnavalkya probably belong to 
this age. But as regards the poets, it will be- rash to 
say that they were invariably attached to courts of 
kings. They probably lived well to be able, to turn to 



their vocation of writing poetry, but it may be supposed 
that they had always some patrons among the rich 

Art and architecture, both Buddhist and Brahmi- 

nical, flourished during the 5th and the 6th century 

and though by the ravages of Moslem army almost 

every Hindu building was pulled to pieces and all large 

edifices of the Gupta age had been destroyed, yet recent 

researches have discovered for us a few specimens of 

architectural compositions of a considerable skill in out 

of the way places. The allied art of sculpture attained 

a degree of perfection, the value of which is being 

recently recognised. Painting as exemplified by the 

frescoes of Ajanta and the cognate works of Sigiria in 

Ceylon (479-97) are so many best examples of Indian 

art. Colonisation of the Malayan ATchipelago, Java 

and Sumatra had begun probably at least in the early 

centuries of the Christian era and- Indian civilisation, 

particularly Brahminic, had already been established in 

the Archipelago by 401 A. D. By the middle of the 

7th century, according to the report of I-Tsing, 

Buddhism was in a flourishing condition in the island 

of Sumatra and it grew side by side with the Hindu 

culture. The study of Sanskrit was so much current 

there that I-Tsing spent about 6 months in order to 

acquaint himself with Sanskrit grammar. The earliest 

Sanskrit inscriptions, however, are found in Borneo 

and during the 4th century A.D. Borneo was being 

ruled by Hindu kings, such as A^vavarman, Mulavar- 

man, etc. Already in the 5th century we hear of 

Purnavarman in Western Java and the worship of 

Visnu and Siva was prevalent in those parts. Mahayana 

forms of Buddhism also flourished in the country in 

the 8th and 9th centuries. In India we find the 

Vaisnava and the Saiva worship flourish side by side 

Gupta civi- 
lisation and 
by Indians 
during the 
early cen- 
turies of 
the Chris- 
tian era. 



with China 
daring the 

ValabbI and 
the centres 
of learning 
from the 
5th to the 
15th cen- 

with Buddhism. But the golden age of the Guptas 
lasted for^t century and a quarter (330-455). Skanda- 
gupta came to the throne in 455 A.D. He successfully 
resisted thePusyamitras from the South and drove away 
the Huns. But in the second invasion of the Huns he 
was defeated, as we know from an inscription dated 
458 A.D. He appointed - Parnadatta Viceroy of the 
West who gave Junagad or Girnar to his son. At 
about 465 and also in 470 the Huns began to pour in. 
Skandagupta probably died in 480 A.D. With his 
death the Empire vanished but the dynasty remained. 
After his death Puragupta succeeded who reigned from 
485 to 535 A.D. The importance of Magadha, how- 
ever, and the University of Nalanda survived the down- 
fall of the Guptas. We have the account of a Chinese 
Mission sent to Magadha in 539 A.D. for the collection 
of original Mahayana texts and for obtaining services of 
scholars capable of translating them into Chinese. 
During the reign of Jlvitagupta I, Paramartha was sent 
to China with a large collection of manuscripts. He 
worked for 23 years in China and died at the age of 70 
in 569. During his reign Bodhidharma also went to 
China (502-549). 

In the Western province of Malwa we find record of 
other kings such as Buddhagupta and Bhanugupta. 

Towards the close of the 5th century Bbatarka 
established himself at Valabhi in Kathiawad in 770. 
The great Buddhist scholars, Gunamati and Sthiramati 
resided in Valabhi and Valabhi became a great centre 
of learning. After the overthrow of Valabhi its place 
was taken by Anhilwara, which retained its importance 
till the 15th century. 

The Huns, however, overthrew the Gupta Empire 
and became rulers of Malwa and Central India. But 
Mihirakula was defeated by a confederacy of kings 



headed by Baladitya and Yafodharman, a Raja of 
Central India. Mihirakula fled to Kashmir. The 
Kashmirian king allowed him the charge of a small 
territory. Mihirakula then rebelled against his bene- 
factor and killed his whole family. But this Hun 
leader had become a devotee of Siva. With the death 
of Mihirakula India enjoyed immunity from foreign 
attacks for a long time. 

We must now come to Harsa (606-647). Harsa 
was a great patron of learning and Bana has given 
some account of him in his Harsacarita. Harsa' s 
Empire was almost equivalent to that of Samudragupta. 
Harsa was himself a great poet. He wrote three 
dramas, the Ratnavatt, the Priyadar&ka and the Nag a- 
nanda. Candra, probably Candragomin, the great 
grammarian, wrote a Buddhist drama called Lokananda 
describing the story as to how a certain Manicuda gave 
away his wife and children to a Brahmin out of genero- 
sity. He lived before 650 A.D. as he is cited in the 
Kaika Vrtti. A contemporary of his, Candradasa, had 
dramatised the Vessantara legend. Whether Candra 
and Candragomin are identical, may be a matter of 
indecisive controversy. But Candra or Candraka's 
poems are quoted in the Subhasitavali and he was 
admired by the rhetoricians. Almost a contemporary 
of Harsa was Mahendravikramavarman, son of 
the Pallava king Simhavikramavarman, and he 
also was himself a king who ruled in Kafici. He 
wrote a prahasana (Mattavilasa) showing the same 
technique as that of Bhasa. Bana, we know^ 
not only wrote the Harsacarita and the Kddambari, 
but also the Candl-tataka, the Mukuta-taditaka 
(a drama) and Pdrvatlpqrinaya (a rupaka). It is 
doubtful whether he or Vamana Bhatta Bana was the 
author of the Sarvacariia-nataka, The grecit dramatist 

The Huns 
the Guptas. 
becomes a 

ment of 
from the 
7th to the 
10th cen- 


Bhavabhuti also flourished about 700 A.D. His three 
plays, the M&latimadhava, the Uttaracarita and the 
Viracarita are masterpieces of Sanskrit drama. Though 
the exact date of Subandhu, author of the Vasavadatta, 
cannot be determined yet as both Bana and Vamana of 
the 8th century refer to him, he must have flourished in 
the 6th or the 7th century. Bhatti also probably 
flourished in the 6th or the 7th century. Bhamaha 
was slightly junior to him. The Natyatastra had been 
written probably in the 2nd century A.D. The poet 
Medhavin and the Buddhist logician Dharmaklrti, who 
was also a poet, flourished probably in the 6th century 
and Dandin, author of the Karyadara and the Da^a- 
kwnaracarita probably also flourished in the 6th century. 
Dinnaga, the Buddhist logician, bad flourished in the 
5th century during which time Vatsayana also wrote 
his Bhasya on the Nyayasutra. The Sanikhya-karika 
of Isvarakrsna was probably written by the 3rd century 
A.D. and the Nyayasutras were probably composed 
near about that time and the Vedanta-sutras of Badara- 
yana were probably composed by the 2nd century A.D. 
and we have already mentioned Vasuvandhu, author of 
the Abhidharmakosa and many important Buddhist 
works, who lived in the 4th century and was 
a senior contemporary of Samudragupta. Udbhata 
probably flourished in the 8th century and the 
Dhvanyaloka was probably written in the latter 
half of the 9th century. Udbhata was not only 
a rhetorician but he had also written a Kumara- 
sambhava. We have already said that Vamana 
lived probably in the 8th century, but as Vamana 
quotes from Magha, Magha must have lived probably 
in the middle of the 7th century. The Katika 
commentary was written about 660 A.D. and the Ny&sa 
was probably written between 700 and 750 A,D f 



Rudrata also flourished before 900 and Abhinavagupta 
who wrote his Locana on the Dhvanyaloka probably 
about 3 50 years after, flourished in the 1 1th century 
and RajaSekhara probably lived in the first quarter of 
the 10th century. Vigakhadatta, the author of the 
Mudraraksasa, probably lived in the 9th century. 
Bhattanarayana, the author of the Benisamhara, is 
quoted by Vamana, and must, therefore, have Jived 
before 800 A.D. If he were one of the Brahmins who 
were brought to Bengal from Kanauj by king AdiSura, 
he may have lived in the 7th century A.D. Kumara- 
dasa, the author of the Janakiharana, was probably a 
king of Ceylon and probably lived in the beginning of 
the 6th century. Mentha lived probably in the latter 
part of the 6th century and king Pravarasena, the 
author of the Setuvandha, must have lived during the 
same time. The Kashmirian author Bhumaka who 
wrote his Ravanarjuriiya in 27 cantos, probably also 
lived at this time. Towards the close of the 9th century 
we have the Kapphanabhyudaya based on the tale of the 
AvadanaSataka by SivasvamI, one of the few exceptions 
where the Avadana literature has been utilised. But 
there are some other poets like Bhattara Haricandra or 
Gunadhya or Adhyaraja whose works are not ;now 

After Harsa, the Empire was practically broken and 
we have a number of kingdoms in various parts of the 
country. China was trying to assert suzerainty in the 
northern frontier and when its power vanished in the 
first half of the 6th century, the domains of the White 
Huns were extending up to Gandhara and between 563 
and 567 this country was held by the Turks. In 630 
the Northern Turks were completely vanquished by the 
Chinese who extended their domains to Turfan and 
Kucha, thus securing the northern road communication 

and literary 
contact with 
the neigh- 


from East to West. Gampo, the Tibetan king (A.U>. 
630) who had become a Buddhist, was friendly to India. 
In 659 China rose to the height of its power and was in 
possession of this country upto Kapi6a. The Turks 
were finally routed by the Chinese in A.D. 744 and 
between 665 and 715, the northern route from China to 
India between the Xaxartes and the Indus was closed 
and the southern route through Kashgar was closed by 
the Tibetans and the road over the Hindukush was 
closed by the Arabs with the rise of Islam. But again 
by 719 the Chinese regained influence on the border of 
India. Buddhism developed in Tibet as against the 
indigenous Bon religion. The Indian sages, Santara- 
k$ita and Padmasarmbhava, were invited to Tibet. 
Contact between politics of India and that of China 
had ceased in . the 8th century owing to the growth of 
the. Tibetan power. In the 7th century, the Tantrik 
form of the Mahay an a, so closely allied to the Tantrik 
worship in India, had established itself in Nepal. 
Nepal was conqured by the Gurkhas of the Hindu faith 
and there has been a gradual disintegration of Buddhism 
from that time. Kashmir was being ruled by Hindu 
kings and in the 8th century we had Candrapi<Ja, 
Muktapida and Jayapida, and in the 9th century there 
were the kings Avantivarman and Sankaravarman and 
in the 10th century we have the kings Partha, Unmatta- 
vanti and later on Queen Didda, all of whom were 
tyrannical. In the llth century we have king Kalasa 
and Hara, after which .it was conquered by the 

Political After Harsa's death, in the 8th century we have 

i^u after king YaSovarman in Kanauj, a patron of Bhavabhuti 

Har?a. an( j Vakpatiraja. At the end of the 8th century, the 

reigning monarch Indrayudha was dethroned by 

Dharmapala, king of Bengal, who enthroned a relative 



of his, Cakrayudha, who was again dethroned by 
Nagabhata, the Gurjara-Pratihara king. He transferred 
bis capital to Kanauj. In the 9th century we have 
king Bhoja. Bhoja's son Mahendrapala had for his 
teacher the poet Rajasekhara. These kings were all 
Vaisnavas. After this the power of Kanauj began to 
wane. In the 10th century Jayapala, king of the 
Upper Valley of the Indus Region and most of the 
Punjab, attacked King Sabuktagln and in the subsequent 
battles that followed was worsted and committed suicide. 
In Kanauj, king Rajyapala was defeated by the Moslems. 
With the disappearance of the Gurjara-Pratihara 
dynasty of Kanauj, a Raja of the Gahadwar clan named 
Candradeva established his authority over Benares and 
Ayodhya and also over Delhi. This is known as the 
Rathore dynasty. In the 12th century we have Raja 
Jayacand under whose patronage Sriharsa, the poet, 
wrote his great work Naisadhacarita. 

It is unnecessary to dilate more upon the political 
history of India. Bui from the body of the book and 
from what has been said in the Editorial Notes, it 
would appear that the current opinion that the glorious 
age of the Sanskrit literature synchronised with the 
glorious epoch of the Guptas, is not quite correct. On 
the other band, great writers like Kalidasa and Bhasa 
flourished before the dawn of the Christian era at the 
time probably of the Mauryas, and also shortly after the 
reign of Pusyamitra at the time of the great Hindu 
ascendency ; the rise of Buddhism gave a great impetus 
to the development of sciences and particularly to philo- 
sophy ; but inspite of Buddhism, Hinduism became 
the prevailing religion of the kings of India and in 
many cases the kings themselves turned to be 
poets. Inspite of the colossal political changes and 
turmoils in various parts of the country and various 

A general 
review of 
the growth 
of Sanskrit 


foreign inroads and invasions, we had a new era of 
literary culture and development till the T2th century, 
when the country was subjugated by the Mahom- 
medans. Many writers have suggested that it is 
the foreign impact of the Sakas, the Hunas f the 
Turks, the Chinese, the Tibetans, that gave an 
incentive, by the introduction of new ideas, to literary 
development. But such a view will appear hardly 
to be correct, for to no period of the literary 
development of India can we ascribe any formative 
influence due to foreign culture. The Hindu literary 
development followed an insulated line of Trivarga- 
siddhi all through its course from the 12th 
century onwards. With the occupation of Upper 
India by the Moslems and their inroads into 
Southern India and with the growth of stringency 
of the Smrti rules and the insulating tendency, 
the former free spirit gradually dwindled away 
and we have mostly a mass of stereotyped litera- 
ture to which South India, jvhich was comparatively 
immune from the Moslem invasion, contributed largely. 
Southern India also distinguished itself by its contri- 
butions to Vainava thought and the emotionalistic 
philosophy which had its repercussions in North India 
also. Some of the greatest thinkers of India, like 
Nagarjuna and Sankara and Ramanuja, Jayatlrtha and 
Vyasatlrtha, hailed from the South and deyotionalism, 
which began with the Arvars in the 3rd or the 4th 
century A.D., attained its eminence in the 16th or the 
17th century along with unparalleled dialectic skill of 
Venkata, Jayatlrtha and Vyasatirtba. Philosophy in 
the North dwindled into formalism of the new school of 
NySya, the rise of emotionalism in Caitanya and his 
followers^ and the stringency of the Smyti in the 
nivandhas of Baghunandana. 


In attempting to give a perspective of the growth 
and development of Sanskrit literary culture from the appearance 
racial, religious, social, political and environmental Jj 
backgrounds, we have omitted one fact of supreme 
importance, viz., the rise of geniuses, which is almost 
wholly unaccountable by any observable data, and though 
poets of mediocre talents may maintain the literary flow 
yet in the field of literature as also in politics it is 
the great geniuses that stand as great monuments of the 
advancement of thought and action. No amount of 
discussion or analysis of environmental conditions can 
explain this freak of Nature just as in the field of 
Biology the problem of accidental variation cannot be 
explained. Why a Sudraka, a Bhasa 4 a Kalidasa, 
a Bhavabhuti or a Bana lifted up his head at parti- 
cular epochs of Indian history, will for ever remain 
unexplained. Kaja^ekhara regards poetic genius as 
being of a two-fold character, creative and appreciative. 
He alone is a poet to whom any and every natural or 
social surrounding provokes his creative activity to 
spontaneous flow of literary creation. This creative 
function may manifest itself through properly arranged 
words in rhyme or rhythm in the appreciation of 
literary art and also in the reproduction of emotions 
through histrionic functions. This individuality of 
genius in a way prevents the determination of great 
works of literary art as being the causal functions of 
historical conditions. 

But though the consensus of opinion among the 

rhetoricians point to the view that the mark of true of poets. ** 
poetry is the creation of sentiments, yet Baja^ekhara 
and others regard wide experience as an essential 
characteristic of a good poet. A poet's words should 
have a universality of application and the manner of 
his delivery should be such that his failures should be 


unnoticeable. Raja^ekhara further maintains that 
though genius is of supreme importance, yet learning 
is also essential. He distinguishes two types of 
poets, the Sastra-kavi, who depicts sentiments 
and the kavya-kavi who by his mode of delivery softens 
difficult ideas and thoughts. Both have their 
place in literature. Both reveal two tendencies 
which are complementary to each other. The accept- 
ance of learning within the category of the essential 
qualities that go to make poetry, has well-established 
itself not only in the time of Raja^ekhara but long 
before him in the time of Bhatti and probably much 
earlier than him. Bhatti takes pride in thinking that 
his poems would not be intelligible to people who are 
not scholars. This wrong perspective arose probably 
from the fact that the grammatical and lexico- 
graphical sciences as well as the philosophical disci- 
pline had attained a high water-mark of respect with 
the learned people who alone could be the judges of 
poetry. This view, however, was riot universal ; for as 
has elsewhere been noted, Bhamaha urges that kdvya 
should be written in such a manner as to be intelligible 
even to those who have no learning or general 

literary We have seen that Sanskrit had become almost 

standard* absolutely stereotyped by the middle of the 2nd century 
g"uage. n B.C. ; we have also seen that the Prakrt, as we find in 
literature in spite of their names as Magadhi, Saura- 
sen! and Mahara^ri, was not really the spoken language 
of those parts of the country. What we have are the 
standardised artificial forms of Prakrt which were used 
for the purpose of literature. It is doubtful^ to what 
extent one can regard the Prakrt of the A6okan inscrip- 
tions to be the spoken dialect of any part of the country, 
though it has been held by many scholars that the 


Eastern dialect was the lingua franca of the whole 
Empire and we assented to this view in the Preface. 
The variations found in the Girnar, the Kalinga and 
the Siddapur edicts would raise many problems of con- 
siderable difficulty. 

Another important question that may arise particu- 
larly in connection with the drama and the prose litera- spoken 


ture, is the question as to whether Sanskrit was the 
spoken language at any time. In our Preface we 
pointed out that neither Samskrta nor Prakrta was 
regarded as the name of speech so far as it can be 
traced from the evidences of earlier Sanskrit literature. 
Panini distinguishes between the Vedic and the 
Paninian language, as Vaidika and Bhasa (spoken 
language). Patanjali in his Bhasija says that the 
object of grammar is to supply rules of control for 
current speech (laukika in the sense of being known to 
the common people, or as having sprung from the 
common people. Y But why should then there be at all 
rules for the control of speech ? The answer is : one, 
for the preservation of the integrity of the Vedas ; 2 and 
two, for making proper transformations of suffixes from 
the forms given in the Samhitas for practical sacrificial 
use ; and three, in pursuance of the general duty for all 
Brahmins to study the Vedas of which the chief acces- 
sory is grammar ; four, grammar is the shortest 
route for the study of correct words ; five, for arriving 
at certainty of meaning and for laying proper accents on 
words. In addition to this, Patanjali adds some supple- 

1 lobe vidita iti lokasarvalok&tthaft iti thafl ! 
athava bhav&rthe adhyatm&ditvat thaft ] 

evarp vede bhava vaidikah \ MahSbha$ya Paspad&hniks. 

2 There may be forms in the Vedas which are Dot found in the current 
speech and one who is not versed in grammar might easily be led to think that 
the Vedic form is erroneous. 

p 1343B 


mentary reasons. These are as follows : the Asuras 
who imitated the Brahmins in performing the sacrifices 
often misused the words or misplaced the accents. 
Thus, instead of putting the pluta accent on he and 
pronouncing the word arayah after it, they used the 
words helaya, helaya, and were defeated for the reason 
that they could not get the benefit of the sacrifice for 
victory ; for this reason, a Brahmin should not mispro- 
nounce the words like the mlecchas. A wrong word or 
a wrong accent fails to denote the proper meaning. So 
to safeguard oneself from wrong usage one should study 
grammar. The study of grammar is also necessary for 
the comprehension of proper meaning. There are 
more wrong words and accents in currency than proper 
words and accents, for in place of one proper word or 
accent there may be many wrong words and accents 
and only the man who knows grammar can distinguish 
between the right and the wrong word. Here 
we find the purificatory influence of grammar. More- 
over, rules of decorum require that the pluta accent 
should be given in offering salutations to respected 
persons, whereas in greeting a woman or a person 
coming from a distant place, one should omit the pluta 
accent. None but one versed in grammar can distin- 
guish these. People often think that the Vedic words 
may be known from the Vedas and the current words 
from current speech, but the above discourse will show 
that there is a necessity for studying grammar for the 
acquirement in both. 

A review of the above discourse reveals to us the 
following uncontestable facts viz., that even in 
the time of Patanjali the Paninian language was used 
in current speech though many mispronounced and mis- 
accented or corrupt or foreign words had crept into the 
current speech. The current speech was thus not 


exactly what we call Paninian Sanskrit but Sanskrit 
in which there is a very large admixture of corrupt 
words, for Patanjali expressly says bhuyamsah 
apasavdah, and a codified grammar was needed for 
sieving out the corrupt words though it cannot be 
denied that inspite of the sieving some popular words 
of foreign or aboriginal character were accepted as 
genuine Sanskrit words. The word titan occurring in a 
verse quoted by Patanjali is an instance of it. We also 
find that by Patanjali's time the tradition was that the 
Asuras had accepted Brahmiuic forms of sacrifice but 
they could not attain the fruits of them as they could 
not properly pronounce the Sanskrit words. The rules 
of accent prescribed for greeting persons also show that 
Sanskrit as mixed up with corrupt words was in use 
among the people. Those, however, who achieved the 
discipline of a grammatical study used the words re- 
cognised as chaste by the grammatical tradition. The 
mixed language as used by common folk was not un- 
intelligible to the learned nor the speech of the learned 
unintelligible to the common people. A parallel may 
be drawn from the existing literary Bengali language 
and the spoken language varying from district to district 
with regard to words and accents. The learned 
Bengalees may not even understand properly in some 
cases the dialectical folk languages of another locality. 
Thus the Chittagong dialect of Bengali would hardly 
be intelligible to a learned Bengalee of Calcutta. A 
learned Chitlagong-man may talk in standard Bengali 
with other learned men but may at the same time use 
his own dialect in talking with the common people of 
his native place or he may even intersperse Chittagong 
words with the words of standard Bengali. The stan- 
dardisation of accent is still more difficult to be 


Dr. Hannes Skold in his work on the Nirukta says 
that the derivations suggested by Yaska are only intelli- 
gible if we assume that he was conversant with some 
kind of Middle Indian Prakrt speech. Prof. Liiders 
says that the language of Asoka's Chancery was 
a high language but the actual spoken speech had 
almost advanced to a stage of the literary Prakrts. 
Keith holds that Yaska spoke Sanskrit as he wrote it 
and the officials of Asoka spoke in the language similar 
to what they wrote, while the lower classes of the people 
spoke in dialects which had undergone much phonetical 
transformation. From Patafljali's statement referred to 
above we can gather that the upper classes who were 
conversant with grammar spoke the chaster speech but 
as we go down the stratum the language was of a 
corrupt nature. The alien people on whom the Aryans 
had imposed their language could not also speak it 
correctly. The directions of royal edicts as found in 
the Arthatastra, Chapter 31, would lead to the presump- 
tion that the edicts were drafted in Sanskrit. A3oka 
was probably the first to issue edicts in some form of 
Prakrt as found in the inscriptions. It is also diffi- 
cult to assert that A^oka's inscriptions were written in 
accordance with the speech of the countries in which the 
edicts appeared; for, though the language and the 
grammar of the edicts have many differences in different 
localities yet these would be too small in comparison 
with the actual dialectical varieties that might have 
existed between Mysore and Guzerat. We think there- 
fore that though the Prakrt speech was current in 
A4oka's time and even in earlier times among the 
common people, among the higher classes Sanskrit was 
used in common speech. But the tatsama words flowed 
continuously into the current speech. 



The study of Sanskrit kavyas and their appreciation 
have their own difficulties. Excepting in the case of a 
few writers of elegance like Kalidasa, Bhasa or Sudraka, 
most of the Sanskrit works in poetry are not easily 
accessible to those who have no proficiency in the 
language and even for the proficient it is not always an 
easy reading and at times one cannot make much of 
them without commentaries. The study of Sanskrit 
kavyas, therefore, cannot be an easy pastime and cannot 
always be enjoyed as recreation in leisure hours. t The 
great poets of India, -' as Keith says, " wrote for 
audiences of experts ; they were masters of the learning 
of their day, long trained in the use of language and 
they aimed to please by subtlety, not simplicity of 
effect. They had at their disposal a singularly 
beautiful speech and they commanded elaborate and 
most effective metres." Under the circumstances, 
though the kavya literature contains within it some 
of the great master-pieces of poetical works, it cannot 
hope to become popular with those who have a mere 
lisping knowledge of Sanskrit or who are unwilling to 
take the trouble of undertaking a difficult journey 
through the intricacies of the language. To the trained 
ear the music of the poetry is so enthrallingly bewitch- 
ing that the mere recitation of the verses in the proper 
manner produces a sense of exhilaration. I have seen 
that even in Europe, when I recited the verses, persons 
who had but little acquaintance with Sanskrit, had 
been tremendously affected by the sonorous rhythm of 
the Sanskrit verses and large audiences almost felt 
themselves spell-bound by the mystery of the music. 
Another difficulty regarding Sanskrit poetry is that, 
more than the poetry in other languages, the charm of 
Sanskrit poetry in untranslatable, as a large part of 
it is derived from the rhythm and % the cadence.. 

of appreciat- 
ing Sanskrit 


Keith says : "German poets like Kiickert can indeed 
base excellent work on Sanskrit originals, but the 
effects produced are achieved by wholly different means, 
while English efforts at verse translations fall invariably 
below a tolerable mediocrity, their diffuse tepidity 
contrasting painfully with the brilliant condensation of 
style, the elegance of metre and the close adaptation of 
sound to sense of the originals." 

Not a less attractive part of Sanskrit poetry is its 
Sanskrit charming descriptions of natural scenes and the 
** **' beauties of the seasons. As we go from poet to poet 
we often notice a change of outlook and perspective 
which cannot but leave a bright and exhilarating effect 
on our imagination. Thus, throughout the descrip- 
tions of natural scenes and objects as depicted by 
Kalidasa, we find that the whole Nature is a replica of 
the human world the same feelings and emotions, the 
same passions and sorrows, the same feelings of 
tenderness, love, affection and friendship that are found 
to reign in the human mind, are also revealed in the 
same manner for Kalidasa in and through all the objects 
of Nature. The Yaksa in the Meghaduta employs the 
cloud as the messenger to his love-lorn lady in the 
Alakapuri, and the cloud itself is made to behave as 
the friend, benefactor and lover of the flowers and 
rivers, mountains and forests, over which it may pass 
dropping showers of rain. Nature may be dumb but 
yet she understands the sorrows of men and is friendly 
to them. In addressing the clouds he says : " Though 
you do not give any verbal response to my words yet 
I cannot think that you will not render me a friendly 
turn, for even in your silence you supply water to the 
catafea." In the last verse of the Meg haduta, Kalidasa 
says addressing the cloud : " Oh Cloud ! may you not 
be separated from the lightning who is your wife. 



Either for the sake of friendship or for the sake of 
kindness or by finding me aggrieved, you may serve me 
as a messenger and after that you may go wherever you 
please." The seasons appeared to Kalidasa almost 
as living beings. They are not merely the friends of 
man but throughout .Nature the life and personality of 
the seasons are realised in joy and love, and in Kali- 
dasa's descriptions this aspect of Nature becomes 
extremely vivid. 

But when Valmiki looks at Nature, his general 
emphasis is on the realistic aspect of Nature. The 
aspect of its utility to man is thin and shadowy. But 
as we proceed onwards we find that gradually Nature 
begins to rise to the human level and often its 
practical utility to man is emphasised, e.g., in the 
Rtusamhdra of Kalidasa. The emphasis on the prag- 
matic aspect has indeed a deleterious effect on the 
nature of poetry, but oftentimes in the descriptions of 
the poets the pragmatic aspect is thinned away and 
human diameters are ascribed to Nature, or Nature 
has been enlivened with the fulness of human conscious- 
ness. Starting from realism we often pass into idealism 
as self-reflection. In the Rcimayana, for example, 
Valmiki in describing the situation of Rama in his 
separation from Sita and in contrasting it with the state 
of Sugriva, describes the sorrow of Rama. Thus he 
says : "1 am without my wife and my throne and am 
being broken into pieces like the bank of a river. As 
the rains make all places extremely impassable, so my 
sorrow is broad and wide and it seems to me as if I 
can never ford over to my great enemy Ravana." But 
Valmiki here does not describe what Rama would have 
done if his wife was near by. He had seen the 
lightning by the side of the dark cloud and he was at 
once reminded as to how Sita might have been lying 


in the lap of Eavana. Looking at the new showers of 
rain he is reminded of the falling tears of Slta. 
Nature thus reminds the human situation and events 
but there is no tinge of any pragmatic perspective 
regarding the rains. But human comparisons are 
quite common. Thus in describing the hills he speaks 
of them as if they were wearing garments of black 
deer-skin and he compares the rains with the holy 
Jihread and music of the rains with the chanting of 
Vedic hymns. But apart from such human analo- 
gies the general tendency of Valmiki's description is 
realism descriptions of fruits and flowers, of birds and 
beasts, of muddy roads and moist winds, and so on. 
Bhavabhuti seems to have followed this realistic ten- 
dency of Valmlki in his descriptions of Nature, which 
is sometimes sublime and sombre. Such a realistic 
tendency can be found in other poets also. Thus, the 
poet Abhinanda speaks of dreadful darkness torn some- 
times into pieces by the gleaming lightning ; even the 
tree before us cannot be seen ; their existence can only be 
inferred from the collection of fire-flies; the whole night 
is ringing with the humming of crickets. 

Thus, the different poets of India had approached 
Nature from diverse points of view, some realistic, some 
pragmatic, some idealistic. 

Thus, in spite of criticisms that may be levelled 
against Sanskrit poetry, to a learned Sanskritist who 
is acquainted with the trailing history of the allusive 
words and its penumbra, the double meanings and the 
associated myths, Sanskrit poetry with its luxurious 
images, cadence of rhyme, jingling alliteration of word- 
sounds, creates a wonderland of magic and joy that 
transports the reader to a new world of beauty. The 
delicate and passionate flickerings of love with which 
Sanskrit love poetry is surcharged, are as much exciting 


to our primal tendencies as appealing to our cultured 
tastes. Though much of Sanskrit poetry has been lost 
through the ravages of time, yet what remains is 
worthy of the pride and satisfaction of any great itation. 
There is no compeer in the world of the Mahabhdrata 
and the Ramayana taken together, and Kalidasa stands 
supreme before our eyes as a magic-creator of beauty 
and enchantment, and Bhavabhuti as the creator of the 
sombre and the sublime. 



Even if there is no direct evidence, 1 it would not be entirely 
unjustifiable to assume that the Sanskrit Kavya literature, highly 
stylised though it is, had its origin in the two great Epics of 
India. The Indian tradition, no doubt, distinguishes the 
Itihasa from the Kavya, but it has always, not unjustly, regarded 
the Ramayana, if not the MaMbharata, as the first of Kavyas. 

1 This rapid survey is only an attempt to give, from the literary point of view only, and 
from direct reading of the literature itself, a connected historical outline of a vast and 
difficult subject. It does not pretend to be exhaustive, nor to supersede the excellent and 
methodical presentations of Moritz Winternitz and Sten Konow, with their valuable 
bibliographical material, as well as the brilliant accounts of Sylvain L6vi and A. B. Keith, 
to all of which, as also to various monographs and articled of individual scholars, every 
writer traversing the same ground must acknowledge his deep indebtedness. But the aim of 
the present account is not to offer a mere antiquarian or statistical essay, not to record and 
discuss what has been said on Sanskrit literature (the value of which, however, is not and 
cannot be ignored), but to give, as concisely as possible, a systematic and literary account 
of the literature itself. Even if strict chronology is not yet attainable, it should be recognised 
that our general knowledge of the subject is not today so nebulous as to make the application 
of historical or literary methods altogether impossible. It is felt that Sanskrit literature, as 
literature, need no longer be looked upon as a literary curiosity, deserving merely a descriptive, 
erudite, apologetic or condescending treatment, but that it ranks legitimately as one of the 
great literatures of the world, to the appreciation of which broader historical and literary 
standards should be applied. The bibliographical references and purely learned discussions, 
which are available in their fulness elsewhere, are, therefore, reduced as much as possible to a 
minimum, and emphasis has been laid upon the literary aspects of the problems, which have, 
so far, not received adequate attention. Tt is cot claimed that the work is final in thia respect 
but it is hoped that a beginning has been made. The only apology that is necessary, 
apart from the obvious one of the writer's imperfect knowledge and capacity, is that it is 
written within certain limits of time, which allowed less provision of material than what 
could have been accomplished by longer preparation, and within certain limits of space, 
which did not permit him to enter fully into some of the difficult, but interesting, 


The Mahabharata certainly afforded, by its diversified content, 
inexhaustible legendary and didactic material to later Kavya 
poets; but from the point of view of form, it is simpler and less 
polished, and conforms more to the epic standard. It could not, 
in spite of later addition and elaboration, afford such an excellent 
model for the factitious Kavya as the more balanced and poetical 
Ramayana did. The unity of treatment, elegancies of style 
and delicate verse-technique, which distinguish the Ramayana, 
may not be studied, but they are none the less skilful and 
effective. It is probable that some part of its stylistic elaboration 
came into existence in later times, but there is nothing to show 
that most of these refinements did not belong to the poem itself, 
or to a date earlier than that of the Kavya literature, which 
imitates and improves upon them. The literary standard and 
atmosphere of the epic are indeed different from those of Amaru 
and Kalidasa, but the poem, as a whole, grounded like the 
Mahabharata as it is in the heroic epos, is undoubtedly the 
product of a much more developed artistic sense. 1 The pedestrian 
naivete of the mere epic narrative is often lifted to the attractive 
refinement of greater art ; and the general tone of seriousness 
and gravity is often relieved by picturesque descriptions of the 
rainy season and autumn, of mountains, rivers and forests, as 
well as by sentimental and erotic passages and by the employ- 
ment of metaphors and similes of beauty. If in the Kavya 
greater importance is attached to the form, the Ramayana can 
in a very real sense be called the first Kavya; and the literary 
embellishment that we find in it in the skilled use of language, 
metre and poetic figures is not wholly adventitious but forms an 
integral part of its poetic expression, which anticipates the 
more conscious ornamentation and finish of the later Kavya. 

1 H. Jacobi, Das Ramayana^ Bonn, 183), pp. 119-26 and A. B. Keiib, History of Sanskrit 
Literature, Oxford, 1928 (cited throughout below as USX), pp. 42-45, give some instances, 
which can be easily multiplied, of the formal excellences of the Rawayana, which foreshadow 
the Kavya. The Epics also show the transformation of the Vedic Anustubh into the Classical 
Sloka, and of the Vedio Trisfcubh-Jagati into a variety of lyrical measures which are furtber 
developed in the Kavya. 


There is no need, therefore, to trace back the origin of the 
Kavya literature in the far-off Vedic hymns, and find its 
prototype in the Narasamsa and Danastuti panegyrics, in the 
semi-dramatic and impassioned Samvada-Akhyanas, in the 
heightening of style found in the glowing descriptions of deities 
like Usas, or in the legends and gnomic stanzas preserved in 
the Brahmanas. The tradition of a non-religious literature was 
already there from remote antiquity, surviving through long 
centuries as a strong undercurrent and occasionally coming to 
the surface in the more conventional literature ; but the imme-^ 
diate precursor of the Kavya is undoubtedly the Epics, which 
themselves further develop these secular, and in a sense popular, 
tendencies of the earlier Vedic literature. 

It is also not necessary to seek the origin of the Sanskrit 
Kavya literature in the hypothetical existence of a prior Prakrit 
literature, on which it is alleged to have modelled itself. There 
is indeed no convincing evidence, tradition or cogent reason to 
support the theory that the Epics themselves or the Kavya were 
originally composed in Prakrit and rendered later into Sanskrit. 
The existence of a Prakrit period of literature preceding the 
Sanskrit, which such theories presuppose, is inferred mainly from 
the epigraphical use of Prakrit in the period preceding the 
Christian era ; but it cannot be substantiated by the adducing of any 
evidence of value regarding the existence of actual Prakrit works 
in this period. Even assuming that a Prakrit literature existed, 
the co-existence of a Sanskrit literature in some form is not 
thereby excluded ; nor does it necessarily follow that the one 
was derived from the other. It is possible to assume the 
existence, from the Vedic times, of a popular secular literature, 
current in a speech other than the hieratic, from which the 
secular Vedic hymns derived their material ; and the tradition is 
possibly continued in heroic songs, lyrical stanzas, gnomic verses 
and folk-tales, which might have been composed in Prakrit ; but 
the very language and treatment of the Epics themselves show a 
stage of linguistic and literary development, in which a freer 


and less polished, but more practical, form of Sanskrit than the 
perfected speech of Panini was employed for conveying 
a literature, not hieratic, but no less aristocratic. The influence 
of a concurrent popular Prakrit literature may be presumed, but 
the Epics, in form, substance and spirit, cannot be called popular 
in the same sense ; they were loved by the populace, but in no 
sense composed or inspired by them. They possess linguistic 
and literary peculiarities of their own, which preclude the theory 
of Prakrit originals, and which must be traced ultimately, in 
unbroken tradition, to certain aspects of Vedic language and 
literature, There is, again, no evidence to justify the high anti- 
quity claimed for the collection of Prakrit folk-tales of Gunadhya, 
which ifi now lost, or for the Prakrit lyrics of Hala, which have 
been misleadingly taken as the prototype of the Sanskrit lyrics. 
Not only does the Prakrit of Hala's anthology show a fairly deve- 
loped form of the language, far apart from the Prakrits of the 
early inscriptions and of the dramatic fragments of Agvaghosa, 
but the Prakrit poetry which it typifies is as conventional as the 
Sanskrit, and is not folk-literature in its true sense. Both the 
Mahabharata and the Jatakas, again, show the currency of the 
beast-fable, but in this sphere also we know nothing of any early 
Prakrit achievement. Nor can it be shown that an original/ 
Prakrit drama was turned into Sanskrit; and our earliest speci- 
mens of the Sanskrit drama in the A^vaghosa fragments, which 
do not show it in a primitive tir rudimentary form, are already 
written in Sanskrit, as well as in Prakrit. 

The hypothesis of an earlier Prakrit literature started also 
from the supposition that Sanskrit was little used until it was 
recovered and restored sometime after the Christian era. The 
theory is thus a revival in another form of Max Miiller's once 
famous but now discredited suggestion l of the cessation of literary 

1 India: What can it teach us ? (London, 1882), p. 281 f. It is mainly on the basis of 
Fergusson's theory of the Vikrama era that Max Muller connected his suggestion with the 
legend of a king Vikraraaditya of Ujjayini, who was supposed to have driven out the Sakaa 
from India and founded the Vikrama era in 544 A.D., but dated the era back to 57 B.G* Max 


activity in India until the sixth century A.D., when a Sanskrit 
Renaissance was supposed to have begun. At a time when 
scanty facts gave room for abundant fancies, the theory appeared 
plausible ; it was apparently justified by the absence or paucity 
of literary works before and after the Christian era, as well as by 
the fact that the incursions of Greeks, Parthians, Kusanas and 
Sakas at this time must have affected the north-west of India. 
But the epigraphical and literary researches of Biihler, Kielhorn 
and Fleet have now confirmed beyond doubt the indication, first 
given by Lassen, 1 regarding the development of the Sanskrit 
Kavya-form in the first few centuries of the Christian era, and 
have entirely destroyed Max Miiller's theory of a literary inter- 
regnum. Biihler 's detailed examination 2 of the evidence borne 
by the early inscriptions, ranging from the second to the fifth 

Miillor, however, had the sagacity to perceive that Fergusson's theory would at once collapse, 
if any document were found dated in the Vikraraa era before 544 A.D. The missing evidence is 
now found f and both the assumptions mentioned above are now shown to be untenable (see 
Fleet, Gupta Inscriptions, Introd. ; also I A, XXX, pp. 3-4). The Vikramaditya legend itself is 
fairly old. It owed its currency, no doubt, from an ill-authenticated verse of a late work, 
which associates Dhanvantari, K?apanaka, Amarasimha, Sanku, Vetalabhat^a, Ghafcakarpara, 
Kalidasa, Varahatnihira and Vararuci as the nine gems of the court of this mythical king. 
While we know for certain that Varahamihira flourished in the middle of tie sixth century, 
Vararuci is undoubtedly a very old author to whom a Kavya is ascribed in Patafi jali'a 
Mahabhasya', while of the other poets, some are mere names, and some, who are by no means 
contemporaries, are lumped together, after the manner of works like Bhoja-prabandha, which 
makes Kalidasa, Bana and Bhavabhuti contemporaries 1 On this verse and on Jyotirvidd- 
bharana (16th century) in which it occurs, see Weber iii ZDMG, XXII, 1868, pp. 708 : aUo 
iotrod. to Nandargikar's ed. of Raghu-vamsa for references to works where this verse is dis- 
cussed. It is remarkable, however, that the tradition of a great Vikram&difcya as a patron of 
the Kavya persists in literature. Subandhu laments that after the departure of Vikramaditya 
there ia no true appreciator of poetry ; and an early reference in the same strain is found in a 
verse of Hftla (ed. NSP t v. 64). The Sanskrit anthologies assign some 20 verses to Vikrama- 
ditya, and he is associated with Bhartrmen^ha , Matrgupta and Kalidasa (see F. W, Thomas, 
introd. to Kavlndra-vacana samuccaya, pp. 105-06 and references cited therein). There ia no 
satisfactory evidence to connect him with the later Vikramadityas of the Gupta dynasty ; and 
if the original founder of the Vikraraa era was a Vikramaditya, all search for him has, so far, 
not proved succeasful. tfor a recent discussion of the question, see Edgerton, introd. to 
Vikramacarita, pp. lviiMx\i. 

1 Laasen, Indische Alterthumskundc, II, p. 115 ( J f. 

* Die indiechen Inschriften und das Alter der mdiachen Kuntspoesie in SWA t 1890, trs, 
I A, gtu,p.291. 


century A.D., not only proves the existence in these centuries of 
a highly elaborate body of Sanskrit prose and verse in the Kavya- 
style, but it also raises the presumption that most of the Pra^asti- 
writers were acquainted with ' some theory of poetic art/ If 
Max Miiller conjectured a decline of literary activity in the first 
two centuries of the Christian era on account of the incursions 
of the Sakas, we know now that there is nothing to justify the 
idea that the Western Ksatrapas or Satraps of Saka origin were 
great destroyers. Their inscriptions show that they became 
themselves rapidly Indian! sed, adopted Indian names and customs, 
patronised Indian art and religion, and adopted, as early as 
150 A. D., Sanskrit as their epigraphical language. There is, 
therefore, no evidence for presuming a breach of literary 
continuity from the first to the fifth century A.D. If the theory 
is sometimes revived by the modified suggestion that the origin 
of the Sanskrit Kavya is to be ascribed to the ascendancy of the 
Sakas themselves, the discovery and publication of A^vaghosa's 
works directly negative the idea by affording further proof of an 
earlier bloom of the Sanskrit Kavya literature in some of its 
important aspects, and perhaps push the period of its origin much 
further back. The fact that a Buddhist poet should, at the 
commencement of the Christian era, adopt the Sanskrit Kavya- 
style for the avowed object 1 of conveying the tenets of his 
faith, hitherto generally recorded in tbe vernacular, is itself an 
indication of its popularity and diffusion; and the relatively 
perfect form in which the Kavya emerges in his writings pre- 
supposes a history behind it. 

The history, unfortunately, is hidden from us. We can, 
however, surmise its existence in some form in Panini's time in 
the 4th century B.C., 2 if we consider that one of the direct results 

1 As he declares at the close of his Saundarananda that his object in adopting the Kavya- 
form is to set forth the truth which leads to salvation in an attractive garb, so that it should 
appeal to all men. 

3 Panini's time is uncertain, but we take here the generally accepted date, as also 
P&taftjali's accepted date in relation to that of Pagini. 


of his elaborate grammar, as also its object, had been the 
standardisation of Sanskrit, as distinguished from the Vedic 
(Chandas) and the spoken dialect (Bhasa). Although Panini 
shows himself fully conversant with the earlier Vedic literature, 
there is no reason to suppose that the Sista speech of his day 
was that of the priesthood alone ; his object was not to regulate 
the hieratic speech but the language of polished expression in 
general. Panini's own system, as well as his citation of the 
views of different schools of grammar, shows that grammatical 
studies must have been fairly well advanced in his time, and 
presupposes the existence of a respectable body of literature on 
which his linguistic speculations must have based themselves. 
Nothing, unfortunately, has survived ; and this literature, which 
must have been supplanted by the more mature writings of later 
times, is now only a matter of surmise. 

The evidence would have been more definite if any reliance 
could be placed on the statement contained in a verse, ascribed 
to Rajasekhara J in Jahlana's Sukti-muldavaU (1257 A.D.) that 
Panini wrote " first the grammar and then the Kfivya, the 
Jarnbavati-jaya." A fragment 2 from Panini's Jambavati- 
vijaya is preserved by Rayarnukuta in his commentary on Amara- 
l{o$a (, which was composed in 1431 A.D. Much earlier 
than this date, Nami-sadhu who wrote his commentary on 
Rudrata's Kavyalamkara in 10G9 A.D.,' { cites " from Panini's 
Mahakavya, the Patala-vijaya," a fragment (samdhya-vadhu'ni 
grhya karena) in illustration of the remark that great poets permit 

1 svasti Paninaye tasmai yasya Rudra-prasddatah \ ddau vydkaranani. kdvyam anu 
Jambavati-jayam \\ This RajasSekhara could not have been the Jaina BajaSekhara, who 
wrote his Prabandha-kota in 1348 A.D. ; but it is not clear if he was the dramatist Rajagekhora, 
who flourished during the end of the Oth and the beginning of the 10th i-entury ; for in the 
latter'a Kavya-mlmatysd there are references <o Panioi's learned achievements but no mention 
of him as a poet. 

2 payah-prsantibhih spjstd vdnti vatah tanaih fanaili. Altogether Bfiyamukuta quotes 
three fragments from Panini (Bbandarkar, Report, 1883-84, pp. 62, 479). Another quotation 
from J&mbavati-jaya is given by Aufrecht in ZDMG> XLV, 1891, p. 308. 

3 S. K. De, Sanskrit Poetics, I, p, 98. 


themselves the licence of ungrammatical forms, 1 and further gives, 
as another example, a stanza " of the same poet " in which the 
un-Paninian form apatyatl occurs. 2 Both these Kavyas, ascribed 
to Panini, are now lost, but their titles imply that they apparent- 
ly dealt with Krsna's descent into the lower world and winning 
of Jambavati as his bride. It is not clear, however, from these 
separate and brief references, if they are two different works or 
one work with two different names. The tradition of Panini's 
poetical achievement is also recorded in an anonymous stanza 
given in the Sadukti-karnamrta (1206 A.D.), 8 while seventeen 
verses, other than those mentioned above, are also found cited 
in the Anthologies under the name of a poet PSnini, 4 of which 
the earliest citation appears to be a verse given in the Kavindra- 
vacana-samuccaya 5 (about 1000 A.D.). Most of these verses are 
in the fanciful vein and ornate diction, and some are distinctly 

1 Ed. NSP, ad 2 fl : mahdkavindm apy apasabda-pdta-darsandt, Nami-sadhu also quotes 
in the same context similar solecisms from the poems of Bhartrhari, Kalid&sa and Bhai wi. 

2 gate'rdha-rdtre parimanda-mandam garjanti yat prdvjsi kdla*meglidh \ 
apafyati vatsam ivendu-bimbam tac charvari gaur iva hutpkaroti j| 

3 5.26.5, which extols Bhavabhuti along with Subandhu, Kaghukara (KalidSsa), 
Dftks^putra (Panini), Haricandra, Sura and Bbaravi. 

* The Anthology verses are collected together and translated by Aufrecht in ZDMG, 
XIV, p. 581f ; XXVII, p. 46f ; XXXVI, p. 365f ; XLV, p. 308f. They are also given by Peter- 
son, introd. to Subhasitdvali t pp. 54-58 and JRAS, 1891, pp. 311-19, and more fully by F. W. 
Thomas, Kavmdravacana* , introd., pp. 51-53. Also see Aufrecht in ZDMQ, XXVIII, p. 113, for 
quotations by Bayamuku$a. The following abbreviations will be used for the Anthologies cited 
below : #t?s=Kavfndra-vacana-samuccaya, ed F. W. Thomas, Bibl. Ind., Calcutta, 1912; 
SP=Sarngadhara-paddbati, ed. P. Peterson, Bombay, 1888; 567ifl = 8ubhasitavali of Vallabha- 
deva, ed. P. Peterson, Bombay, 1886; <SW=Sukti-rnukt5vali of Jahlana, ed. Gaekwad's Orient. 
Series, Baroda, 1939 ; fl/rw^Saduktikanpamrtn, ed. B. Sarma and H. Sarma, Lahore, 1933; 
PdrPadyavalT, ed. S. K. De, Dacca, 1934. 

6 No. 186, tanvangmam stanaii dr$tva. As it will be clear from the concordance given 
by Thomas, the ascription in the Anthologies is not uniform. The Sbhv gives nine verses, of 
which two only (upodha-ragena and ksapah, ksamlkrtya) are ascribed by SP. The Skm gives 
8 verses including iipodha-ragena; while Sml assigns this verse, as well as ksapah kfamikrtya, 
which last verse is given also by Sbhv and SP but which is anonymous in Kvs and ascribed 
to Ofpkai}$ha i n Skm. The verses panau padma-dhiyd and panau fana-tale are assigned to 
PS^ini in Skm, but they are anonymous in Kvs, while the first verse is sometimes ascribed 
to Acala. Some of these verses are quoted in the Alamkara works, but always anonymously, 
the oldest citations being those by Vamana ad IV. 3 (aindrani dhanufy) and Inandavardhana, 
p. 35 (upodha-rdcjena). 


erotic in theme. Among the metres employed we have one verse 
in Sikharim, two in Sloka, two in Sardulavikrldita, three in 
Sragdhara, three in Vam^asthavila and six in Upajati. It is 
noteworthy that Ksemendra, in his Suvrtta-tilaka (iii. 30), tells 
us in the llth century that Panini excelled in composing verses 
intheUpaiati metre 1 ; and we find that, besides the six Anthology 
verses, both the verses quoted by Nami-sadhu, as well as two out 
of the three fragments given by Rayamukuta, are in the Upajati. 
Aufrecht, who first drew attention to the existence of 
a poet named Panini, remarked that we did not as yet know 
of more than one author of that name ; and the question 
whether, despite the rarity of the name, we can assume the 
existence of more than one Panini has not, in the interval, 
advanced much beyond that stage. As the Indian tradition, 
however, knows only of one Panini who wrote the famous 
grammar and \vhom it does not distinguish from the poet Panini, 
it has been maintained that the grammarian and the poet are 
identical. 2 While admitting that the evidence adduced is late, 
and that the ascription in the Anthologies, being notoriously 
careless, should not be taken as conclusive, one cannot yet lose 
sight of the fact that the tradition recorded from the llth century, 
independently by various writers, makes no distinction between 
Panini the grammarian and Panini the poet. The genuineness 
of the Anthology verses may well be doubted, but the naming of 
the two poems, from which verses are actually quoted, cannot be 
so easily brushed aside. The silence of grammarians from 

1 AB, we are told further, Kalidaaa ia Mandakranta, Bhavabhuti in SikharinT, 
Bh&ravi in VarpSasthavila, Ratnakara in Vasantatilaka, and Rajagekhara in Sardulavikridita, 
etc. The preponderance of Upajati in As*vaghos.a's Buddlia-carita (ed. E. H. Johnston, Pt. II, 
p. Ixvi) undoubtedly indicates its early popularity, attested also by its adoption by Kalidasa io 
his two poems. 

* Tn the works and articles of Peterson cited above. Pischel, in ZDM G, XXXIX, 1885, p. 
95f believes in the identity, but he makes it the ground of placing Panini at about the fifth 
century A.D. ; Biihler, however, rightly points out (I A, XV, 1886, p. 241) that " if the gram- 
marian P&nini did write a Kavya, it does not follow that he should be supposed to live in 
the 4th or 6th century A.D. ; the Kavya literature is much older. 1 ' 

2- 1348B 


Patafijali downwards is a negative argument 1 which proves 
nothing, while the least valid of all objections is that the 
Sanskrit of the poems could not have been the Sanskrit of Panini, 
or that Panini could not have used such ungrainmatical forms as 
grhya and apatyatl in defiance of his own rules (vii. i. 37, 81). 
The occurrence of such archaisms, which are not rare in old 
poets, 2 is itself a strong indication of the antiquity of the poem or 
poems; and when we consider that only two centuries later 
Patafijali refers to a Kavya by Vararuci, who was also perhaps 
a grammarian-poet, 8 and quotes fragments of verses composed in 
the same ornate manner and diction, the argument that the 
language of the poems is comparatively modern and could not 
have been that of Panini loses much of its force. In the absence 
of further decisive evidence, however, the question must be 
regarded as open ; but nothing convincing has so far been 
adduced which would prove that the grammarian could not have 
composed a regular Kavya. 

The literary evidence furnished by the quotations and 
references in Patanjali's Mahabhasya, which show that the 
Sanskrit Kavya in some of its recognised forms flourished in the 
2nd century B.C., 4 gives us the first definite indication regard- 
ing its early origin and development. Patafijali directly 
mentions a "Vararuca Kavya (ad h.3.101), 5 although, un- 

1 R. G. Bhandarkar in JBRAS, XVI, p. 344. 

4 These archaisms are authenticated by the Epics, by As*vaghosa and by what Pataft;ali 
Bays about poetic licence. Narni-sidhu, as noted above, rightly points out that such irregular 
forms are not rare even in later poets, The frdgtn2nts quoted by ilayamukut i and Narni- 
sld m have undoubtedly the appearance of bsing old. Some of the Anthology verses contain 
instances of 1e:lio difficilior, which have been discussad by B5'itlingk in ZDMG, XXXVT, p 

3 Besides Vararuci, whose verses have been cited in the Anthologies (Peterson, introd. to 
56 Jit? p. 103; Skm, introd., pp. 105-07), we hive similar verses ascribe J to Bhartrbari (see 
Peterson in Sbhv, introd., p. 74; Skm, iutrod., p. 82) and Vya^i (Skm, V. 82.2;. 

* On the question of Patafifali's date, which is still uncertain, see Keith, India Office Cat. 
o/ MSS t II, p. 2l8f. 

& One o! Rajas*ekhara f 8 verses in the Sukti mukiGvaH tells us that the name of Vararuci 's 
poem was Kan(babharana. Vararuci is one of the mysterious figures of early Sanskrit 
literature. He is sometimes identified with the V&rttikakara Katyayana and extolled as one 
of the nine gems of the court of on equally mysterious Vikramadilya. To him a monologue- 


fortunately, he supplies no further information about it. He 
refers to poetic licence, which was apparently not rare in his day, 
with the remark : chandovnt kavayah kurvanti (ad i.4.3). He 
appears to know various forms of the Kavya literature other than 
poetry, although from his tantalisingly brief references or frag- 
mentary quotations it is not always possible to determine in what 
exact form they were known to him. Like Panini, Patanjali 
knows the Bharata epic and refers to Granthikas, who were 
probably professional reciters. Tales about Yavakrita, Priyarigu 
and Yayati were current; and commenting on Katyayana's 
oldest mention of the Akhyayika, 1 which alluded not to narrative 
episodes found in the Epics but to independent works, Patanjali 
gives the names of three Akhyayikas, namely, Vasavadatta, 
Bumanottara and Bhaimarathl. But, unfortunately, we have no 
details regarding their form and content. In an obscure passage 
(ad iii. 1.2G), over the interpretation of which there has been 
much difference of opinion, 2 a reference is made to some kind of 
entertainment possibly dramatic in which a class of enter- 
tainers called Saubhikas carry out, apparently by means of vivid 
action, the killing of Kamsa and the binding of Bali. Greater 
interest attaches to some forty quotations, mostly metrical, but 
often given in fragments, in which one can find eulogistic, erotic 
or gnomic themes in the approved style and language of the 
Kavya. The metres in which they are conveyed are no longer 

play, entitled Ubhayabhisarika, is attributed, as well a3 a lost work called Carumati, which was 
apparently a romauce. He is vaguely referred to as an authority on the Aiamkara-s'a'atra (S. If. 
De, Sanskrit Poetics, I, p. 70) and regarded as the author of a Prakrit Grammar (Prakfta- 
prakata), of a work on grammatical gender (Lihgdnua$ana) t of a collection of gnomic stanzas 
(Niti-ratna) and even of an eastern version of the collection of folk-tales known as Sinihasana* 
dvdtrirtisikd. Apparently, be was me of the far-off apocryphal authors of traditional repute on 
whom all anooyma could be conveniently lumped. 

1 Varttika on Pa,, iv.3.87 and iv.2.60. Also see Patafi;ali, ed. Kielhorn, II, p. 284. 
Katyayana knows a work named Daiv&suram, dealing apparently with the story of the war of 
gods and demons. 

2 Ed. Kielhorn, II, p. 36. See Weber in Ind> St., XIII, p. 488f ; Liiders in SB AW, 1916, 
p. C98f ; L6vi ia ThMtre tnd.,I, p. 315; Hillebrandb in ZDMG, LXXU, p. 227f; Keith io 
BSOS, I, Pt. 4, p. 27f and Sanskrit Drama, Oxford, 1924, p. fclf. 


Vedic, but we have, besides the classical Sloka, fragments of 
stanzas in Malati, Praharsim, VamSasthavila, Vasantatilaka, 
Pramitaksara, Tndravajra or Upendravajra. In addition to this, 
there are about 260 scattered verses * treating of grammatical 
matters (sometimes called Sloka-varttikas), which employ, besides 
the normal gloka, Arya, Vaktra and some irregular Tristubh- 
Jagatl metres, such ornate lyrical measures as Vidyunmala 
(3 stanzas), Samani, Indravajra and Upendravajra (7 stanzas), 
SalinI (4 stanzas), Vamsasthavila, Dodhaka (12 stanzas) and 
Totaka (2 stanzas). 

This early evolution of lyrical measures, multitude of which 
is systematically defined and classified in the earliest known 
work on Prosody, attributed to Pingala, 2 takes us beyond the 
sphere of the Vedic and Epic metrical systems. The Epic poets, 
generally less sensitive to delicate rhythmic effects, preferred 
metres in which long series of stanzas could be composed with 
ease ; but the metrical variation in lyric and sentimental poetry, 
which had love for its principal theme, accounts for the large 
number of lyric metres which came into existence in the 
classical period. Some of the new metres derive their names 
from their characteristic form or movement : such as, Druta- 
vilambita ' fast and slow,' VegavatI ' of impetuous motion/ 
Mandakranta ' stepping slowly,' Tvaritagati ' quickly moving ' ; 
some are named after plants and flowers: Mala 'garland/ 
Mafijari ' blossom ' ; some are called after the sound and 
habit of animals, Sardula-vikrldita ' play of the tiger/ Ava- 
lalita ' gait of the horse/ Harini-pluta ' leap of the deer/ 
Hamsa-ruta ' cackling of the geese/ Bhramara-vilasita ' sportive- 
ness of the bees,' Gaja-gati * motion of elephant ' ; but it 
is also remarkable that the names given to a very large number 

1 Kielhorn in lA t XV, 1886, p. 228 ; also 1A t XIV, pp. 326-27. 

8 M. Ghosh in IHQ, VII, 1931, p. 724f, maintains that the parts dealing with the 
.Vcdic and classical metres respectively cannot be attributed to the same auth<r, &nd that 
the Vedio part should be assigned to circa 600 B.C.; D, C Sarcar, in Ind. Culture, VI, 
pp. 110f,274, believes that the classical part cannot be placed earlier than the 5th century A.D. 


of metres are epithets of fair maidens : Tanvi ' slender-limbed/ 
Kucira ' dainty/ Pramada ' handsome/ Pramitaksara ' a 
maiden of measured words/ Manjubhasini ' a maiden of charm- 
ing speech/ SaSivadana ' moonfaced/ Citralekha * a maiden of 
beautiful outlines/ Vidyunm r ila * chain of lightning/ Kanaka- 
prabha ' radiance of gold/ Cfiruhasin! ' sweetly smiling/ Kunda- 
danti ' a maiden of budlike teeth/ Vasantatilaka ' decora- 
tion of spring/ Cancalaksi ' a maiden of tremulous glances/ 
Sragdhara 'a maiden with a garland/ and Kantotpkla ' plague 
of her lovers ' ! The names mentioned above undoubtedly 
indicate a more developed and delicate sense of rhythmic forms. 
The names of fair maidens, however, need not be taken as 
having actually occurred in poems originally composed in their 
honour by diverse poets, but they certainly point to an original 
connexion of these Jyric metres with erotic themes ; and Jacobi 
is right in suggesting ] that they had their origin in the Sanskrit 
Kavya poetry of a pre-Christian era, from which the Maharastri 
lyric also had its impetus and inspiration. 

The difficulty of arriving at an exact conclusion regarding 
the origin and development of the Kavya arises from the fact 
that all the Kavya literature between Patanjali and Asvaghosa 
has now disappeared ; and we cannot confidently assign any 
of the Kavyas, which have come down to us, to the period 
between the 2nd century B.C. and the 1st or 2nd century A.D. 
We have thus absolutely no knowledge of the formative period 
of Sanskrit literature. The Kavya does not indeed emerge in 
a definite and self-conscious form until we come to Asvaghosa, 
the first known Kavya-poet of eminence, who is made a contem- 
porary of Kaniska by both Chinese and Tibetan traditions, and 
who can be placed even on independent grounds " between 
50 B.C. and 100 A.D. with a preference to the first half of the 
first century A.D." 2 An examination of Asvaghosa's works, 

1 in ZDMG, XXXVIII, pp. 616-17. 

2 See Buddha-carita, ed. E. H. Johnston (Calcutta, 1936), Pfc. II, iutrod., pp. xiii-xviJ 


however, shows * that although they are free from the later 
device of overgrown compounds, they betray an unmistakable 
knowledge, even in a somewhat rough and primitive form, of 
the laws of Kavya poetry, by their skill in the use of classical 
metres, 2 by their handling of similes and other rhetorical figures, 
and by their growing employment of the stanza as a separate 
unit of expression. 

A little later, we have a fairly extensive Sanskrit inscription, 
carved on a rock at Girnar, of Mahaksatrapa Rudradaman, 3 
celebrating an event of about 150 A.D. and composed in the 
ornate Sanskrit prose familiar to us from the Kavya. The 
literary merit of this Prasasti cannot be reckoned very high, 
but it is important as one of the earliest definite instances of 
high-flown Sanskrit prose composition. The inscription contains 
a reference to the king's skill in the composition of " prose and 
verse embellished and elevated by verbal conventions, which 
are clear, light, pleasant, varied and charming/' 4 Making 
allowance for heightened statement not unusual in mscriptional 
panegyric, the reference can be taken as an interesting evidence 
of the early interest in Sanskrit culture evinced even by a king 
of foreign extraction. One can also see in the reference at 
least the author's, if not his patron's, acquaintance with some 
form of poetic art which prescribed poetic embellishment (Alam- 
kara) and conventional adjustment of words (Sabda-samaya), 
involving the employment of such excellences as clearness, light- 
on the d<*te of Kaniska a summary of the divergent views, with full references, is given by 
Winternitz, History of Indian Literature (referred to below as H!L) t II, Calcutta, 1983, 
pp 611*11. The limits of divergence are now no longer very large, and the date 100 A,D. 
would be a rough but not unjust estimate. 
1 E. H. Johnston, op. cit. t pp. Ixiii f. 

8 Among the metres used (besides classical Anustubh) are Upa;'Sti, Vams'asthavila, 
Rucira, PrahirsinT, Vasantatilaka, Malinl, Sikharini, SardulavikrTdita, Suvadanft, Viyogint 
or SuodarT, Aup ccbandasika, Vaitalfya, PufjpitS^ra, and even unknown metres like $arabh&, 
and rare and difficult ones like Kusnmalatavellita (called Citralekhft by Bharata), Udgata and 

3 El, VIII, p. 36f. 

* sphuta-laghu-madhura-citra-jkanta sabda&amayodaT&laipkrta>gadya padya*. 


ness, sweetness, variety, charm and elevation. It is notable 
that the composition itself is not free from archaisms like 
patina (for patya), Prakritisms like vUaduttarani (for vimhd-) or 
irregular construction like anyatra samgramesu ; but in respect 
of the employment of long sentences and sonorous compounds, of 
poetic figures like simile and alliteration, and of other literary 
devices, it exemplifies some of the distinctive characteristics of 
the Sanskrit Kavya. TheNasik inscription of Siri Pulumayi 1 
also belongs to the 2nd century A.D. and exhibits similar features, 
but it is composed in Prakrit, apparently by one who was familiar 
with Sanskrit models. 

Not very far perhaps in time from A^vaghosa flourished the 
Buddhist writers, Matrceta, Kumaralata and Arya Sura, whose 
works, so far as they have been recovered, afford conclusive 
evidence of the establishment of the Kavya style. To the third 
or fourth century A.D. is also assigned the Tantrakhyayika, 
which is the earliest known form of the Pancatantra ; and the 
oldest ingredients of the Sattasal of Hala and the Brhatkatha of 
of Gunadhya also belong probably to this period. It would also 
be not wrong to assume that the sciences of Erotics and Drama- 
turgy, typified by the works of Vatsyayana and Bharata, took 
shape during this time ; and, though we do not possess any very 
early treatise on Poetics, the unknown beginnings of the disci- 
pline are to be sought also in this period, which saw the growth 
of the factitious Kavya. The Artha-ustra of Kautilya is placed 
somewhat earlier, but the development of political and administra- 
tive ideas must have proceeded apace with the growth of material 
prosperity and with the predominance of an entirely secular 

We have, however, no historical authority for the date of any 
of these works, nor of the great Kavya-poets, until we come 
to the Aihole inscription of 634 A.D., 2 which mentions Bharavi, 

1 El t VIII, p. COf. 

? #/, vi, p. if. 


along with Kalidasa, as poets of established reputation. Kali- 
dasa, however, speaking modestly of himself at the commence- 
ment of his Malavikagnimitra, mentions Bhasa, Somila (or 
Saumilla) and Kaviputra as predecessors whose works might 
delay the appreciation of his own drama , Although agree- 
ment has not yet been reached about the authenticity of the 
Trivandrum dramas ascribed to Bhasa, there cannot be any 
doubt that a dramatist Bhasa attained, even in this early period, 
a reputation high enough to be eulogised by Kfilidasa, and later 
on by Banabhatta. Of Somila we know from Bajasekhara 1 
that he was the joint author, with Ramila, 2 of a 8iidraka-katha, 
which is now lost ; and only one verse of theirs is preserved by 
Jahlana (59. 35) and Sanigadhara (No. 3822) in their antho- 
logies. 8 Of Kaviputra also, who is cited in the dual, we have 
nothing but one verse only, given in the Subhasitavali (No. 2227), 
but the verse now stands in Bhartrhari's tfatakas (Snigara , 
st. 3) 

A definite landmark, however, is supplied by the Harsa-carita 
of Banabhatta who, as a contemporary of King Harsavardhana 
of Thaneswar and Kanauj, belonged to the first half of the 7th 
century A.D., and who, in the preface to this work, pays homage 
to some of his distinguished predecessors. Besides an un- 
named author of a Vasavadatta, who may or may not be 
Subandhu, he mentions Bhattara Haricandra who wrote an 
unnamed prose work, Satavahana who compiled an anthology, 
Pravarasena whose fame travelled beyond the seas by his Setu 
(-bandha), Bhasa who composed some distinctive dramas, Kali- 
dasa whose flower-like honied words ever bring delight, the 
author of the Brhat-hatha, and Adhyaraja. Of Bhattara 

1 tan Sudrdkahatha-karau vandyau Ramila-Somilau \ ynyor dvayoh Itavyam asld ardlia- 
ndrttvaropaman II , cited in Jahlapa, op cit. 

2 One \erseunderIUruilakai8givenby Sbhv, No. 1698. The Sudraka-hatha is men- 
tioned and quoted by Bhoja in bis Srhgard'prakatia ; ibe name of the heroine is given as 

3 Tlie stanza, bowever, is given anonymously in Kvs (No. 473) and attributed to 
K&ia&kbara in Ston (ii. 86. 6). 


Haricandra 2 and Adhyaraja 1 we know nothing; but it is clear 
that the fame of the remaining well known authors must 
have been wide-spread by the 7th century A,D. Although the 
respective dates of these works and authors cannot be fixed with 
certainty, it can be assumed from Banabhatta's enumeration that 
the period preceding him formed one of the most distinguished 
epochs of Kavya literature, the development of which probably 
proceeded apace with the flourishing of Sanskrit culture under the 
Gupta emperors in the 4th and 5th centuries of the Christian 

This conclusion receives confirmation from the wide culti- 
vation of the Kavya form of prose and verse in the inscrip- 
tional records of this period, of which not less than fifteen 
specimens of importance will be found in the third volume of 
Fleet's Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum* Their Kavya-features 
and importance in literary history have long since been ably 
discussed by Biihler. 4 His detailed examination not only proves 
the existence of a body of elaborate prose and metrical writings 
in Kavya-style during these centuries, but also shows that the 
manner in which these Prasasti-writers conform to the rules 
of Alamkara, crystallised later in the oldest available treatises 
like those of Bhainaha and Dandin, would establish the 
presumption of their acquaintance with some rules of Sanskrit 

1 Most scholars have accepted Pischel's contention (Nachrichten d. kgl. GeselUchaft d. 
Wissenschaften Gottingen, 1901, p. 486 f.) that the word ddhyardja in st. 18 is not a 
proper name of any poet but refers to the poet's patron King Harsa himself. Bat the verse 
has difficulties of interpretation, for which see F. W. Thomas and others in JRAS, 1903, 
p. 803; 1904, p. 155 f., 366, 544; 1905, p. 569 f. We also know from a stanza quoted in the 
Sarasvatt-kanthabharana that there was a Prakrit poet named Adhyaraja, who is mentioned 
along with Sahasftfika; the commentary, however, explaining in a facile way that Adhyaraja 
stands for Sftlivahana and Sahas&nka for Vikrama ! 

* He is certainly not the Jaina Haricandra, author of the much later Dharmaarmabhyu- 
daya which gives a dull account of the saint Dharmanatha (ed. N8P, Bombay, 1899). Our 
Haricandra is apparently mentioned in a list of great poets in Skm (5. 26. 5), and quoted in 
the anthologies. 

3 Calcutta, 1888. Some of these inscriptional records will be found in a convenient 
form in DevanSgarl in D. B. Diskalkar's Selections from Inscriptions, Vol. I (Eajkol, 1925), 

* In Die indischen Inschriftin, cited above. 



poetics.. The most interesting of these inscriptions is the 
panegyric of Samudragupta by Harisena, engraved on a 
pillar at Allahabad (about 350 A.D.), which commences with 
eight stanzas (some fragmentary) describing vividly the death of 
Candragupta I and accession of his son Samudragupta, then 
passes over to one long sonorous prose sentence and winds up 
with an eulogistic stanza, all composed in the best manner of 
the Kavya. Likewise remarkable is the inscription of Virasena, 
the minister of Candragupta II, Samudragupta' s successor. 
Some importance attaches also to the inscription of Vatsabhatti^ 
which consists of a series of 44 stanzas celebrating (in 473 A.D.) 
the consecration of a Sun-temple at Dagapura (Mandasor), from 
the fact that the poetaster is alleged to have taken Kalidasa as 
his model ; but the literary merit of this laboured composition 
need not be exaggerated. 


It is noteworthy that in Harisena' s Pra&isti, Samudragupta 
is mentioned not only as a friend and patron of poets but as a 
poet himself, who like Kudradaman before him, composed poems 
of distinction enough to win for himself tbe title of Kaviraja or 
king of poets. 1 Amiable flattery it may be^ but the point is 
important ; for, the tradition of royal authors, as well as of royal 
patrons of authors, continues throughout the history of Sanskrit 
literature. The very existence of rdyal inscriptions written in 
Kavya-style, as well as the form, content and general outlook 
of the Kavya literature itself indicates its close connexion with 
the courts of princes, and explains the association of Agvaghosa 
with Kaniska, of Kalidasa with a Vikramaditya, or of Bana- 
bhatta with Harsavardhana. The royal recognition not only 
brought wealth and fame to the poets, but also some leisure for 

i For other examples of poet-kings see 'introduction to the edition of Priyadartika bj 
Nsriman, Jackon and Ogden, pp. xxxv-xxxix. 


serious composition. In his Kavya-mimamsa R5jaekhara 
speaks of literary assemblies held by kings for examination of 
works and reward of merit ; and even if we do not put faith in 
this or in the unhistorical pictures of poetical contests at royal 
courts given in the Bhoja-prabandha and Prabandha-cintdmaniz 
a vivid account is furnished by Maftkha in his Srlkanlha-carita 
(Canto XV) of one such assembly actually held by a minister of 
Jayasimha of Kashmir towards the middle of the 12th century. 
As a matter of fact, the Kavya literature appears to have been 
aristocratic from the beginning, fostered under the patronage of 
the wealthy or in the courts of the princes. Even if it does not 
lack serious interest, this literature naturally reflects the graces, 
as well as the artificialities, of courtly life ; and its exuberant 
fancy is quite in keeping with the taste which prevailed in this 
atmosphere. The court-influence undoubtedly went a long way, 
not only in fostering a certain langour and luxuriance of style, 
but also in encouraging a marked preference of what catches the 
the eye to what touches the heart. 

In order to appreciate the Kavya, therefore, it is necessary 
to realise the condition under which it was produced and the 
environment in which it flourished. The pessimism of the 
Buddhistic ideal gradually disappeared^ having been replaced by 
more accommodating views about the value of pleasure. Even 
the Buddhist author of the Nagdnanda does not disdain to weave 
a love-theme into his lofty story of Jimutavahana's self-sacrifice ; 
and in his opening benedictory stanza he does not hesitate to 
represent the Buddha as being rallied upon his hard-heartedness 
by the ladies of Mara's train. 1 From Patanjali's references we 
find that from its very dawn love is established as one of the 
dominant themes of the Kavya poetry. 2 The Buddhist conception 

1 A similar verse with openly erotic imagery is ascribed to A6vaghos.a in Kvs No. 2. 

2 One fragment, at least, of a stanza is clearly erotic in subject in its description of the 
morning : varatanu sarypravadanti hukkutah "0 fair-limbed one, the cocks unite to proclaim ". 
The full verse is fortunately supplied twelve centuries later by Ks.emendra, who quotes it In 

his Aucitya-vicara but attributes it, wrongly to KumSradasa. 


of the love-god as Mara or Death gives way to that of the flower- 
arrowed deity, who is anticipated in the Atharva-veda and is 
established in the Epics, but whose appearance, names and 
personality are revived and developed in the fullest measure in 
the Kavya. The widely diffused Kavya manner and its prevail- 
ing love-interest invade even the domain of technical sciences ; 
and it is remarkable that the mathematician Bbaskaragupta not 
only uses elegant metres in his Lllavatl but presents his algebrai- 
cal theorems in the form of problems explained to a fair maiden, 
of which the phraseology and imagery are drawn from the bees, 
flowers and other familiar objects of Kavya poetry. The celebra- 
tion of festivals with pomp and grandeur, the amusements of 
the court and the people, the sports in water, the game of 
swing, the plucking of flowers, song, dance, music, dramatic 
performances and other diversions, elaborate description of which 
forms the stock-in-trade of most Kavya-poets, bear witness not 
only to this new sense of life but also to the general demand for 
refinement, beauty and luxury. The people are capable of 
enjoying the good things of this world, while heartily believing 
in the next. If pleasure with refinement is sought for in life, 
pleasure with elegance is demanded in art. It is natural, there- 
fore, that the poetry of this period pleases us more than it moves; 
for life is seldom envisaged in its infinite depth and poignancy, or 
in its sublime heights of imaginative fervour, but is generally 
conceived in its playful moods of vivid enjoyment breaking 
forth into delicate little cameos of thought or fancy. 

The dominant love-motif of the Kavya is thus explained by 
the social environment in which it grows and from which alone 
it can obtain recognition . It is, however, not court-life alone 
which inspires this literature. At the centre of it stands the 
Nagaraka, the polished man about town, whose culture, tastes 
and habits so largely mould this literature that he may be taken 
to be as typical of it as the priest or the philosopher is of the 
literature of the Brahmanas or the Upani^ads. 1 Apart from the 

1 H. Qldenberg, Die Literal des aUen Indien, Stuttgart und Berlin, 1908, pp. 198 f. 


picture we get of him in the literature itself, we have a vivid 
sketch of an early prototype of the Nagaraka in the Kama-sutra 
or Aphorism of Erotics, attributed to Vatsyayana. We are told 
that the well planned house of the Nagaraka is situated near a 
river or tank and surrounded by a lovely garden; in the garden 
there are, for amusement or repose, a summer house, a bower of 
creepers with raised parterre, and a carpeted swing in a shady 
spot. His living room, balmy with perfume, contains a bed, 
soft, white, fragrant and luxuriously furnished with pillows or 
cushions. There is also a couch, with a kind of stool at the head, 
on which are placed pigments, perfumes, garlands, bark of citron^ 
canvas and a box of paint, A lute hanging from an ivory peg 
and a few books are also not forgotten. On the ground there is a 
spittoon, and not far from the couch a round seat with raised 
back and a board for dice. The Nagaraka spends his morning in 
bathing and elaborate toilet, applying ointments and perfumes to 
his body, collyriuin to his eyes and red paint to his lips, chewing 
betel leaves and citron-bark to add fragrance to his mouth, and 
looking at himself in the glass. After breakfast he listens to 
his parrots, kept in a cage outside his room, witnesses ram and 
cock fights and takes part in other diversions which he enjoys 
with his friends and companions. After a brief midday sleep, he 
dresses again, and joins his friends ; and in the evening there 
is music, followed by joys of love. These are the habitual 
pleasures of the Nagaraka, but there are also occasional rounds of 
enjoyment, consisting of festivals, drinking parties, plays, con- 
certs, picnics in groves, excursions to parks or water-sports in 
lakes and rivers. There are also social gatherings, often held in 
the house of the ladies of the demi-monde, where assemble men 
of wit and talent, and where artistic and poetic topics are freely 
discussed. The part played by the accomplished courtesan in the 
polished society of the time is indeed remarkable ; and judging 
from Vasantasena, 1 it must be said that in ancient India of this 

1 Also the picture of Kamamafijari in Ucchvasa II of Darin's romance; she if a 
typical couxteian, but highly accomplished and e due tied. 



period, as in the Athens of Perikles, her wealth, beauty and 
power, as well as her literary and artistic tastes, assured for her 
an important social position. She already appears as a character 
in the fragment of an early Sanskrit play discovered in Central 
Asia, and it is not strange that Sudraka should take her as the 
heroine of his well known drama; for her presence and position 
must have offered an opportunity, which is otherwise denied to 
the Sanskrit dramatist (except through a legendary medium) of 
depicting romantic love between persons free and independent. 
The picture of the Nagaraka and his lady-friend, as we have it in 
literature, is undoubtedly heightened, and there is a great deal of 
the dandy and the dilettante in the society which they frequent; 
but we need not doubt that there is also much genuine culture, 
character and refinement. In later times, the Nagaraka degene- 
rates into a professional amourist, but originally he is depicted as 
a perfect man of the world, rich and cultivated, as well as witty, 
polished and skilled in the arts, who can appreciate poetry, 
painting and music, discuss delicate problems in the doctrine of 
love and has an extensive experience of human, especially femi- 
nine, character. 

The science of Erotics, thus, exercised a profound influence 
on the theory and practice of the poetry of this period. The 
standard work of Vatsyayana contains, besides several chapters on 
the art and practice of love, sections on the ways and means of 
winning and keeping a lover, on courtship and signs of love, on 
marriage and conduct of married life, and not a little on the 
practical psychology of the emotion of love. On the last men- 
tioned topic the science of Poetics, as embodied particularly in 
the specialised works on the erotic Rasa, went hand in hand; and 
it is almost impossible to appreciate fully the merits, as well as 
the defects, of Sanskrit love-poetry without some knowledge of 
the habits, modes of thought, literary traditions and fundamental 
poetical postulates recorded in these Sastras, the mere allusion to 
one of which is enough to call up some familiar idea or touch 
some inner chord of sentiment. There is much in these treatises 


which gives us an idealised or fanciful picture ; and the existence 
of the people of whom they speak was just as little a prolonged 
debauch as a prolonged idyll. There is also a great deal of scho- 
lastic formalism which loves subtleties and minutiae of classifica- 
tion. At the same time, the works bear witness to a considerable 
power of observation, and succeed in presenting a skilful and 
elaborate analysis of the erotic emotion, the theory of which came 
to have an intimate bearing on the practice of the poets. 

In this connexion a reference should be made to an aspect 
of Sanskrit love-poetry which has been often condemned as too 
sensual or gross, namely, its highly intimate description of the 
beauty of the feminine form and the delights of dalliance, as 
well as its daring indelicacies of expression. It should be recog- 
nised that much of this frankness is conventional ; the Sanskrit 
poet is expected to show his skill and knowledge of the Kama- 
3astra by his minute and highly flavoured descriptions. But the 
excuse of convention cannot altogether condone the finical yet 
flaunting sensuality of the elaborate picture of love-sports, such 
as we find in Bharavi, Magha and their many followers (includ- 
ing the composers of later Bhanas) and such as are admitted by 
a developed but deplorable taste. Even the Indian critics, who 
are not ordinarily squeamish, are not sparing in their condemna- 
tion of some of these passages, and take even Kalidasa to task 
for depicting the love-adventures of the divine pair in his 
Kumara-sambhava. A distinction, however, must be drawn 
between this conventional, but polished, and perhaps all the more 
regrettable, indecency of decadent poets, on the one band, and 
the exasperatingly authentic and even blunt audacities of expres- 
sion, on the other, with which old-time authors season their 
erotic compositions. What the latter-day poets lack is the naive 
exuberance or bonhomie of their predecessors, their easy and 
frank expression of physical affection in its exceedingly human 
aspect, and their sincere realisation of primal sensations, which 
are naturally gross or grotesque being nearer to life. It would 
be unjust ad canting prudery to condemn these simpler moods 


of passion and their direct expression, unless they are meaning- 
lessly vulgar. The point is too often forgotten that what we 
have here is not the love which dies in dreams, or revels in the 
mystic adoration of a phantom-woman. It does not talk about 
ideals and gates of heaven but walks on the earth and speaks of 
the passionate hunger of the body and the exquisite intoxication 
of the senses. The poets undoubtedly put a large emphasis on 
the body, and love appears more as self-fulfilment than as self- 
abnegation ; but in this preference of the body there is nothing 
debasing or prurient. The essential realism of passion, which 
cannot live on abstraction but must have actualities to feed upon, 
does not absolve a truly passionate poet from the contact of the 
senses and touch of the earth ; but from this, his poetry springs 
Antaeus-like into fuller being. Modern taste may, with reason, 
deprecate the intimate description of personal beauty and delights 
of love in later Sanskrit poetry, but even here it must be clearly 
understood that there is very seldom any ignoble motive behind 
its conventional sensuousness, that there is no evidence of 
delight in uncleanness, and that it always conforms to the 
standard of artistic beauty. Comparing Sanskrit poetry with 
European classical literature in this respect, a Western critic 
very rightly remarks that " there is all the world of difference 
between what we find in the great poets of India and the frank 
delight of Martial and Petronius in their descriptions of immoral 
scenes." The code of propriety as well as of prudery differs 
with different people, but the Sanskrit poet seldom takes leave 
of his delicacy of feeling and his sense of art ; and even if he 
is ardent and luxuriant, he is more openly exhilarating than 
offensively cynical. 

The Sanskrit poet cannot also forget that, beside his 
elegant royal "patron and the cultivated Nagaraka, he had a more 
exacting audience in the Easika or Sahrdaya, the man of taste, 
the connoisseur, whose expert literary judgment is the final test 
of his work. Such a critic, we are told, must not only possess 
technical knowledge of the requirements of poetry, but also a 


fine capacity of aesthetic enjoyment, born of wide culture 
and sympathetic identification with the feelings and ideas of 
the poet. The Indian ideal of the excellence of poetry is 
closely associated with a peculiar condition of artistic enjoy- 
ment, known as Rasa, the suggestion of which is taken to be 
its function, and in relation to which the appreciator is called 
Rasika. It is a reflex of the sentiment, which has been suggest- 
ed in the poem, in the mind of the appreciator, as a relishable 
condition of impersonal enjoyment resulting from the idealised 
creation of poetry. The evoking of sentiment, therefore, is 
considered to be the most vital function of poetry ; and stress is 
put more and more on sentimental composition to the exclusion 
of the descriptive or ornamental. But here also the theorists 
are emphatic that in the art of suggesting this sentimental 
enjoyment in the reader's mind, the poetic imagination must 
show itself. As Oldenberg 1 remarks with insight, the Indian 
theorists permit intellectual vigour and subtlety ^ the masculine 
beauty, to stand behind that of the purely feminine enjoyment 
born of the finest sensibility. Both these traits are found in the 
literature from the beginning the idea of delectable rapture 
side by side with a strong inclination towards sagacity and 
subtlety. It is true that the dogmatic formalism of a scholastic 
theory of poetry sinks to the level of a cold and monotonously 
inflated rhetoric ; but the theorists are at the same time not 
blind to finer issues, nor are they indifferent to the supreme 
excellence of real poetry * and the aesthetic pleasure resulting 
from it. They take care to add that, despite dogmas and 
formulas, the poetic imagination must manifest itself as the 
ultimate source of poetic charm. The demands that are made 
of the poet are, thus, very exacting; he must not only be 
initiated into the intricacies of theoretic requirements but 
must also possess poetic imagination (Sakti), aided by culture 

1 Die Literatur des alien Indian, p. 207 f. 

2 Of. Anandavardhana, p. 29 : asminn ati'Vicitra-kavipararppara-vahini sarfi$&re K&li* 
dasa-prabhrtayo dvitra paflcatQ, va maliakavaya ttt g any ate. 

4 1343B 


(Vyutpatti) and practice (Abhyasa). Even if we do not rely 
upon Rajagekhara's elaborate account of the studies which 
go to make up the finished poet, there can be no doubt 
that considerable importance is attached to the " education' 1 of 
the poet, 1 whose inborn gifts alone would not suffice, and for 
whose practical guidance in the devices of the craft, convenient 
manuals 2 are elaborately composed. 

It is not necessary to believe that the poet is actually an 
adept in the long list of arts and sciences 8 in which he is required 
to be proficient ; but it is clear that he is expected to possess (and 
be is anxious to show that he does possess) a vast fund of useful 
information in the various branches of learning. Literature is 
regarded more and more as a learned pursuit and as the product 
of much cultivation. No doubt, a distinction is made between 
the Vidvat and the Vidagdha, between a man versed in belles- 
lettres and a dry and tasteless scholar ; but it soon becomes a 
distinction without much difference. The importance of inspira- 
tion is indeed recognised, but the necessity of appealing to a 
learned audience is always there. It is obvious that in such an 
atmosphere the literature becomes; rich and refined, but natural 

i See F. W. Thomas, Bhandarkar Com,n. Volume, p. 397 f ; S. K. De, Sanskrit Poetics, 
II, pp. 357 f, 42 f.n., 52; Keith, HSL, pp. &38-41. Raja^ekbara gives an interesting, but 
gome what heightened, picture of the daily life and duties of the poet, who is presented as a 
man of fashion and wealth, of purity in body, mind and speech, but assiduous and hard- 
working at his occupation. 

* These works furnish elaborate hints on the construction of different metres, on the dis- 
play of word-skill of various kinds, on jeux de mot* and tricks of producing double meaning, 
conundrums, riddles, alliterative and chiming verses, and various other devices of verbal in- 
genuity. They give instructions on the employment of similes and enumerate a large number 
of .ordinary parallelisms for that purpose. They give lists of Kavi-samayas or conventions 
observed by poets, and state in detail what to describe and how to describe. 

5 The earliest of such lists is given by Bbamaha I. 9, which substantially agrees 
with that of Rudrata (1. 18^ ; but Vamana (1.8.20-21) deals with the topic in some detail. The 
longest list includes Grammar, Lexicon, Metrics, Ehetoric, Arts, Dramaturgy," Morals, Erotics 
Politics* Law, Logic, Legends, Religion and Philosophy, as well as such miscellaneous sub- 
jects as Medicine, Botany, Mineralogy, knowledge of precious stones, Elephant-lore, Veteri- 
nary science, Art of War and Weapons, Art of Gambling, Magic, Astrology and Astronomy, 
knowledge of Vedic rites and ceremonies, and of the ways of the world, 


ease and spontaneity are sacrificed for studied effects, and re- 
finement leads perforce to elaboration. 

The Kavya, therefore, appears almost from its very begin- 
ning as the careful work of a trained and experienced specialist. 
The technical analysis of a somewhat mechanical Ehetoric leads 
to the working of the rules and means of the poetic art into a 
system ; and this is combined with a characteristic love of adorn- 
ment, which demands an ornamental fitting out of word and 
thought. The difficulty of the language, as well as its com- 
plexity, naturally involves prolonged endeavour and practice for 
effective mastery, but it also affords endless opportunity and 
temptation for astonishing feats of verbal jugglery, which 
perhaps would not be possible in any other language less accommo- 
dating than Sanskrit. Leaving aside the grotesque experiments 
of producing verses in the shape of a sword, wheel or lotus, or of 
stanzas which have the same sounds when read forwards or back- 
wards, and other such verbal absurdities, the tricks in poetic 
form and decorative devices are undoubtedly clever, but they are 
often overdone. They display learned ingenuity more than real 
poetry, and the forced use of the language is often a barrier to 
quick comprehension. Some poets actually go to the length of 
boasting 1 that their poem is meant for the learned and not for 
the dull-witted, and is understandable only by means of a com- 
mentary. 2 The involved construction, recondite vocabulary , 
laboured embellishment, strained expression, and constant search 
after conceits, double meanings and metaphors undoubtedly 
justify their boasting; but they evince an exuberance of fancy 
and erudition rather than taste, judgment and real feeling. 
This tendency is more and more encouraged by the elaborate 
rules and definitions of Khetoric, until inborn poetic fervour is 

1 E.g. Blia\ti, XXII. 34 ; vyakhya-gamyam idam kdvyam utsavah sttdhiyam a/am \ hatt 
durmedhasat cfomin vidvat-priyataya naya II . Here the Vidagdha is ignored deliberately for 
the Vidvaf. 

2 Some authors had, in fact, to write their own commentaries to make themselves in- 
telligible. Even Xnandavardhana who deprecates Buch tricks in his theoretical work does 
not steer clear of them in his Dem-tataka. 


entirely obscured by technicalities of expression. In actual 
practice, no doubt, gifted poets aspire to untrammelled utterance; 
but the general tendency degenerates towards a slavish adherence 
to rules, which results in the overloading of a composition by 
complicated and laboured expressions. 

Comments have often been made on the limited range and 
outlook of Sanskrit literature and on the conventionality of its 
themes. It is partly the excessive love of form and expression 
which leads to a corresponding neglect of content and theme. 
It is of little account if the subject-matter is too thin and 
threadbare to support a long poem, or if the irrelevant and often 
commonplace descriptions and reflections hamper the course of 
the narrative; what does matter is that the diction is elaborately 
perfect, polished and witty, and that the poem conforms to the 
recognised standard, 1 and contains the customary descriptions, 
however digressive, of spring, dawn, sunset, moonrise, water- 
sports, drinking bouts, amorous practices, diplomatic consulta- 
tions and military expeditions, which form the regular stock-in- 
trade of this ornate poetry. A large number of so-called poetic 
conventions (Kavi-samayas) 2 are established by theorists 
and mechanically repeated by poets, while descriptions of 
things, qualities and actions are stereotyped by fixed epithets, 
cliche phrases and restricted formulas. Even the various motifs 
which occur in legends, fables and plays 8 are worn out by repeti- 

J See Dan<}in, Kavyadarsa, 1. 14-19 ; Visvanatba, Sdhitya-darpana, VI. 316-25, eta. 

2 For a list of poetic conventions see RajaSekhara, Kavya-mimamsa, XIV ; Amaraaimha, 
Kavya-kalpalata, I. 5 ; Sahitya-darpana, VII. 23-24, etc. Borne of the commonest artificial con- 
ventions are : the parting of the Cakravaka bird at night from its mate ; the Cakora feeding 
on the moonbeams; the blooming of the As*oka at the touch of a lady 'a feet; fame and 
laughter described as white ; the flower-bow and bee-string of the god of love, etc. Originally 
the writers on poetics appear to have regarded these as established by the bold usage of the 
poet (kavi-praudhokti'siddha), but they are gradually stereotyped as poetical commonplaces. 

3 Such as the vision of the beloved in a dream, the talking parrot, the magic steed, the 
fatal effect of an ascetic's curse, transformation of shapes, change of sex, the art of entering 
into another's body, the voice in the air, the token of recognition, royal love for a lowly 
maiden and the ultimate discovery of her real status as a princess, minute portraituie of the 
heroine's personal beauty and the generous qualities of the hero, description of pangs of 
thwarted love and sentimental longing. M. Bloomfield (Festscrift Ernst Windi*ch> Leipzig, 


tion and lose thereby their element of surprise and charm. The 
question of imitation, borrowing or plagiarism 1 of words or ideas 
assumes importance in this connexion ; for it involves a test of 
the power of clever reproduction, or sometimes a criticism of 
some weakness in the passages consciously appropriated but 
improved in the course of appropriation. 

The rigidity, which these commonplaces of conventional 
rhetoric acquire, is the result, as well as the cause, of the time- 
honoured tendency of exalting authority and discouraging origi- 
nality, which is a remarkable characteristic of Indian culture in 
general and of its literature in particular, and which carries the 
suppression of individuality too far. It is in agreement with 
this attitude that Sanskrit Poetics neglects a most vital aspect of 
its task, namely, tfce study of poetry as the individualised expres- 
sion of the poet's mind, and confines itself more or less to a 
normative doctrine of technique, to the formulation of laws, 
modes and models, to the collection and definition of facts and 
categories and to the teaching of the means of poetic expression. 
This limitation not only hinders the growth of Sanskrit Poetics 
into a proper study of Aesthetic, 2 but it also stands in the way 
of a proper appreciation and development of Sanskrit literature. 
The theory almost entirely ignores the poetic personality in a 
work of art, which gives it its particular shape and individual 
character. Sanskrit Poetics cannot explain satisfactorily, for 

1914, pp. 349-61; JAOS, XXXVI, 1917, p. 51-89; XL, 1920, pp. 1-24; XLIV, 1924, pp. 202-42), 
W.Norman Brown (JAOS, XLVII, 1927, pp. 3-24), Penzer (in his ed. of Tawney's trs. of 
Katha-sarit-safjara, 'Ocean of Story ') and others have studied in detail some of these motifs 
recurring in Sanskrit literature. Also see Bloomfield in Amer. Journ. of Philology, XL, pp. 
1-86 ; XLI, pp. 309-86 ; XLIV, pp. 97-133, 193-229 ; XLVII, pp. 205-233 ; W. N. Brown in ibid., 
XL, pp. 423-30 ; XLTI, pp.122-51 ; XLIII, pp . 289-317 ; Studien in Honour of M. Bloomfield, 
pp. 89-104, 211-24 (Ruth Norton) ; B. H. Burlingaine in JRAS, 1917, pp. 429-67, etc. 

1 The question ia discussed by inandavardhana, Dhvanyaloka, III. 12 f. ; Raja&khara 
Kavya-mimattisa, XI f ; Ksemendra, Kavikanthabharana, II, 1 ; Hemacandra, Katyanu6asana 
pp. 8 f . See S. K. De, Sanskrit Poetics, II, pp. 362, 373. 

2 See S. K, De, Sanskrit Poetics as a Study of Aesthetic in Dacca University Studies, 
Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 80-124. 


instance, the simple question as to why the work of one poet is 
not the same in character as that of another, or why two works 
of the same poet are not the same. To the Sanskrit theorist a 
composition is a work of art if it fulfils the prescribed require- 
ments of 'qualities,' of 'ornaments,' of particular arrangements 
of words to suggest a sense or a sentiment ; it is immaterial 
whether the work in question is Raghu~vam,$a or Naisadha. The 
main difference which he will probably see between these two 
works will probably consist of the formal employment of this or 
that mode of diction, or in their respective skill of suggesting 
this or that meaning of the words. The theorists never bother 
themselves about the poetic imagination, which gives each a 
distinct and unique shape by a fusion of impressions into an 
organic, and not a mechanic, whole. No doubt, they solemnly 
affirm the necessity of Pratibha or poetic imagination, but in 
their theories the Pratibha does not assume any important or 
essential role ; and in practical application they go further and 
speak of making a poet into a poet. But it is forgotten that a 
work of art is the expression of individuality, and that individua- 
lity never repeats itself nor conforms to a prescribed mould. It 
is hardly recognised that what appeals to us in a poem is the 
poetic personality which reveals itself in the warmth, movement 
and integrity of imagination and expression. No doubt, the poet 
can astonish us with his wealth of facts and nobility of thought, 
or with his cleverness in the manipulation of the language, but 
this is not what we ask of a poet. What we want is the expres- 
sion of a poetic mind, in contact with which our minds may be 
moved. If this is wanting, we call his work dull, cold or flat, 
and all the learning, thought or moralising in the world cannot 
save a work from being a failure. The Sanskrit theorists justly 
remark that culture and skill should assist poetic power or per- 
sonality to reveal itself in its proper form, but what they fail to 
emphasise is that any amount of culture and skill cannot 'make' 
a poet, and that a powerful poetic personality must justify a work 
of art by itself. 


The result is that Sanskrit poetry is made to conform to 
certain fixed external standard attainable by culture and practice ; 
and the poetic personality or imagination, cramped within pres- 
cribed limits, is hardly allowed the fullest scope or freedom to 
create new forms of beauty. Although the rhetoricians put 
forward a theory of idealised enjoyment as the highest object of 
poetry, yet the padagogic and moralistic objects are enumerated 
in unbroken tradition. In conformity with the learned and 
scholastic atmosphere in which it flourishes, poetry is valued for 
the knowledge it brings or the lessons it inculcates, and is 
regarded as a kind of semi-3astra; while the technical analysis and 
authority of the rhetorician tend to eliminate the personality of 
the poet by mechanising poetry. The exaltation of formal skill 
and adherence to the banalities of a formal rhetoric do not 
sufficiently recognise that words and ornaments, as symbols, 
are inseparable from the poetic imagination, and that, 
as such, they are not fixed but mobile, not an embalmed 
collection of dead abstractions, but an ever elusive series of 
living particulars. Sanskrit literature is little alive to these 
considerations, and accepts a normative formulation of poetic 
expression. But for the real poet, as for the real speaker, there 
is hardly an armoury of ready-made weapons ; he forges his 
own weapons to fight his own particular battles. 

It must indeed be admitted that the influence of the theorists 
on the latter-day poets was not an unmixed good. While the 
poetry gained in niceties and subtleties of expression, it lost 
a great deal of its unconscious freshness and spontaneity. It 
is too often flawed by the very absence of flaws, and its want 
of imperfection makes it coldly perfect. One can never deny 
that the poet is still a sure and impeccable master of his craft, 
but he seldom moves or transports. The pictorial effect, the 
musical cadence and the wonderful spell of language are undoubted, 
but the poetry is more exquisite than passionate, more studied 
and elegant than limpid and forceful. We have heard so much 
about the artificiality and tediousness of Sanskrit classical 


poetry that it is not necessary to emphasise the point ; but the 
point which has not been sufficiently emphasised is that the 
Sanskrit poets often succeed in getting out of their very narrow 
and conventional material such beautiful effects that criticism 
is almost afraid to lay its cold dry finger on these fine blossoms 
of fancy. It should not be forgotten that this literature is not 
the spontaneous product of an uncritical and ingenuous age, 
but that it is composed for a highly cultured audience. It pre- 
supposes a psychology and a rhetoric which have been reduced 
to a system, and which possesses a peculiar phraseology and a 
set of conceits of their own. We, therefore, meet over and 
over again with the same tricks of expression, the same strings 
of nouns and adjectives, the same set of situations, the same 
groups of conceits and the same system of emotional analysis. 
In the lesser poets the sentiment and expression are no longer 
fresh and varied but degenerate into rigid artistic conventions. 
But the greater poets very often work up even these romantic 
commonplaces and agreeable formulas into new shapes of beauty. 
Even in the artificial bloom and perfection there is almost always 
a strain of the real and ineffable tone of poetry. It would 
seem, therefore, that if we leave aside the mere accidents of 
poetry, there is no inherent lack of grasp upon its realities. It 
is admitted that the themes are narrow, the diction and imagery 
are conventional, and the ideas move in a fixed groove ; but the 
true poetic spirit is not always wanting, and it is able to trans- 
mute the rhetorical and psychological banalities into fine things 
of art. 

The Sanskrit poet, for instance, seldom loses an opportunity 
of making a wonderful use of the sheer beauty of words and 
their inherent melody, of which Sanskrit is so capable. The 
production of fine sound-effects by a delicate adjustment of word 
and sense is an art which is practised almost to prefection. It 
cannot be denied that some poets are industrious pedants in 
their strict conformity to rules and perpetrate real atrocities by 
their lack of subtlety and taste in matching the sense to 


the sound ; but, generally speaking, one must agree with the 
appreciative remarks of a Western critic that " the classical 
poets of India have a sensitiveness to variations of sound, to 
which literatures of other countries afford few parallels, and theii 
delicate combinations are a source of never-failing joy". The 
extraordinary flexibility of the language and complete mastery 
over it make this possible ; and the theory which classifies 
Sanskrit diction on the basis of sound-effects and prescribes 
careful rules about them is not altogether futile or pedantic. 
One of the means elaborately employed for achieving this end 
is the use of alliteration and assonance of various kinds. Such 
verbal devices, no doubt, become flat or fatiguing in meaning- 
less repetition, but in skilled hands they produce remarkable 
effects which are perhaps not attainable to the same extent in 
any other language. Similar remarks apply to the fondness 
for paronomasia or double meaning, which the uncommon 
resources of Sanskrit permit. In languages like English, 
punning lends itself chiefly to comic effects and witticisms or, 
as in Shakespeare 1 ! to an occasional flash of dramatic feeling; 
but in classical languages it is capable of serious employment as a 
fine artistic device. 2 It is true that it demands an intellectual 
strain disproportionate to the aesthetic pleasure, and becomes 
tiresome and ineffective in the incredible and incessant torturing 
of the language found in such lengthy triumphs of misplaced 
ingenuity as those of Subandhu and Kaviraja ; but sparingly 
and judiciously used, the puns are often delightful in their terse 
brevity and twofold appropriateness. The adequacy of the 
language and its wonderful capacity for verbal melody are also 
utilised by the Sanskrit poet in a large number of lyrical measures 
of great complexity, which are employed with remarkable skill 
and^ense of rhythm in creating an unparalleled series of musical 

i Merchant of Venice, IV. 1, 123 ; Julius Caeser, I. 2, 156 (Globe Ed.), 
1 C/. Darin's dictum : ttesali pttsnati sarv&su prayo vakrokii*u triyam. 



The elegance and picturesqueness of diction are, again, 
often enhanced by the rolling majesty of long compounds, the 
capacity for which is inherent in the genius of Sanskrit 
and developed to the fullest extent. The predilection for 
long compounds, especially in ornate prose, is indeed often 
carried to absurd excesses, and is justly criticised for the 
construction of vast sentences extending over several pages and 
for the trick of heaping epithet upon epithet in sesquipedalian 
grandeur ; but the misuse of this effective instrument of synthetic 
expression should not make us forget the extraordinary power of 
compression and production of unified picture which it can 
efficiently realise. It permits a subtle combination of the 
different elements of a thought or a picture into a perfect whole, 
in which the parts coalesce by inner necessity ; and it has been 
rightly remarked that " the impression thus created on the 
mind cannot be reproduced in an analytical speech like English, 
in which it is necessary to convey the same content, not in a 
single sentence syntactically merged into a whole, like the idea 
which it expresses, but in a series of loosely connected predica- 
tions ' f . Such well-knit compactness prevents the sentences from 
being jerky, flaccid or febrile, and produces undoubted sonority, 
dignity and magnificence of diction, for which Sanskrit is always 
remarkable, and which cannot be fully appreciated by one who 
is accustomed to modern analytical languages. 

The inordinate length of ornate prose sentences is set off by 
the brilliant condensation of style which is best seen in the 
gnomic and epigrammatic stanzas, expressive of maxims of 
sententious wisdom with elaborate terseness and flash of wit. 
The compact neatness of paronomasia, antithesis and other verbal 
figures often enhances the impressiveness of these pithy sayings; 
and their vivid precision is not seldom rounded off by appropriate 
similes and metaphors. The search for metaphorical expression 
is almost a weakness with the Sanskrit poets ; but, unless it is a 
deliberately pedantic artifice, the force and beauty with which it 
is employed canpot be easily denied. The various forjns of 


metaphors and similes are often a source of fine surprise by their 
power of happy phraseology and richness of poetical fancy. 
The similarities, drawn from a fairly wide range, often display 
a real freshness of observation, though some of them become 
familiar conventions in later poetry ; and comparison in some 
form or other becomes one of the most effective means of 
stimulating the reader's imagination by suggesting more than 
what is said. When the similarity is purely verbal, it is witty 
and neat, but the poet seldom forgets to fit his comparison to the 
emotional content or situation. 

Closely connected with this is the power of miniature 
painting, compressed in a solitary stanza, which is a charac- 
teristic of the Kavya and in which the Sanskrit poets excel to a 
marvellous degree. In the epic, the necessity of a continuous 
recitation, which should flow evenly and should not demand too 
great a strain on the audience, makes the poet alive to the unity 
of effect to be produced by subordinating the consecutive stanzas 
to the narrative as a whole. The method which is evolved in the 
Kavya is different. No doubt, early poets like Agvagbosa and 
Kalidasa do not entirely neglect effective narration, but the later 
Kavya attaches hardly any importance to the theme or story and 
depends almost exclusively on the appeal of art finically displayed 
in individual stanzas. The Kavya becomes a series of miniature 
poems or methodical verso-paragraphs, loosely strung on the 
thread of the narrative. Each clear-cut stanza is a separate 
unit in itself, both grammatically and in sense, and presents a 
perfect little picture. Even though spread out over several 
cantos, the Kavya really takes the form, not of a systematic and 
well knit poem, but of single stanzas, standing by themselves^ 
in which the poet delights to depict a single idea, a single phase 
of emotion, or a single situation in a complete and daintily 
finished form. If this tradition, of the stanza-form is not fully 
satisfactory in a long composition, where unity of effect is 
necessary, it is best exemplified in the verse-portion of the 
dramas^, as well as in the Satakas, such as those of Bhartfhari and 


Amaru, in which the Sanskrit poetry of love, resignation or 
reflection finds the most effective expression in its varying moods 
and phases. Such miniature painting, in which colours are 
words, is a task of no small difficulty ; for it involves the perfect 
expression, within very restricted limits, of a pregnant idea or an 
intense emotion with a few precise and elegant touches. 

All this will indicate that the Sanskrit poet is more directly 
concerned with the consummate elegance of his art than with any 
message or teaching which he is called upon to deliver. It is 
indeed not correct to say that the poet does not take any interest 
in the great problems of life and destiny, but this is seldom writ 
large upon his work of art. Except in the drama which 
comprehends a wider and fuller life, he is content with the 
elegant symbols of reality rather than strive for the reality itself ; 
and his work is very often nothing more than a delicate blossom 
of fancy, fostered in a world of tranquil calm. Nothing ruffles 
the pervading sense of harmony and concord ; and neither deep 
tragedy nor great laughter is to be found in its fulness in Sanskrit 
literature. There is very seldom any trace of strife or discontent, 
clash of contrary passions and great conflicts ; nor is there any 
outburst of rugged feelings, any great impetus for energy and 
action, any rich sense for the concrete facts and forces of life. 
There is also no perverse attitude which clothes impurity in the 
garb of virtue, or poses a soul-weariness in the service of callous 
wantonness. Bitter earnestness, grim violence of darker passions, 
or savage cynicism never mar the even tenor and serenity of these 
artistic compositions which, with rare exceptions, smooth away 
every scar and wrinkle which might have existed. It is not 
that sorrow or suffering or sin is denied, but the belief in the 
essential rationality of the world makes the poet idealistic in 
his outlook and placidly content to accept the life around 
him t while the purely artistic attitude makes him transcend the 
merely personal. The Sanskrit poet is undoubtedly pessimistic 
in his belief in the inexorable law of Karrnan and rebirth, but 
his ttnliroited pessimism with regard to this world is toned down 


by his unlimited optimism with regard to the next. It fosters 
in him a stoical resignation, an epicurean indifference and a 
mystic hope and faith, which paralyse personal energy, suppress 
the growth of external life and replace originality by sub- 
mission. On the other hand, this is exactly the atmosphere 
which is conducive to idealised creation and serenity of 
purely artistic accomplishment, in which Sanskrit poetry 

This complacent attitude towards life falls in with the view 
of Sanskrit Poetics which distinguishes the actual world from 
the world of poetry, where the hard and harsh facts of life 
dissolve themselves into an imaginative system of pleasing fictions. 
It results in an impersonalised and ineffable aesthetic enjoyment, 
from which every trace of its component or material is obliterated. 
In other words, love or grief is no longer experienced as love or 
grief in its disturbing poignancy, but as pure artistic sentiment 
of blissful relish evoked by the idealised poetic creation. To 
suggest this delectable condition of the mind, to which the name 
of Rasa is given is regarded both by theory and practice to be 
the aim of a work of art ; and it is seldom thought necessary 
to mirror life by a direct portrayal of fact, incident or character. 
It is for this reason that the delineation of sentiment becomes 
important and even disproportionately important in poetry, 
drama and romance ; and all the resources of poetic art and 
imagination are brought to bear upon it. Only a secondary or 
even nominal interest is attached to the story, theme ; plot or 
character, the unfolding of which is often made to wait till the 
poet finishes his lavish sentimental descriptions or his refined 
outpourings of sentimental verse and prose. 

This over-emphasis on impersonalised poetic sentiment and 
its idealised enjoyment tends to encourage grace, polish and 
fastidious technical finish, in which fancy has the upper 
hand of passion and ingenuity takes the place of feeling. Except 
perhaps in a poet like Bhavabhuti, we come across very little of 
rugged and forceful description, very little of naturalness and 


simplicity, hardly any genuine emotional directness, nor any 
love for all that is deep and poignant, as well as grand and 
awe-inspiring, in life and nature. Even Kalidasa's description 
of the Himalayas is more pleasing and picturesque than stately 
and sublime. The tendency is more towards the ornate and the 
refined than the grotesque and the robust, more towards har- 
monious roundness than jagged angularity, more towards 
achieving perfection of form than realising the integrity and 
sincerity of primal sensations. It is, therefore, not surprising 
that there is no real lyric on a large scale in Sanskrit ; that its 
so-called dramas are mostly dramatic poems ; that its historical 
writings achieve poetical distinction but are indifferent to mere 
fact; that its prose romances sacrifice the interest of theme 
to an exaggerated love of diction ; and that its prose in general 
feels the effect of poetry. 

Nevertheless, the Sanskrit poet is quite at home in the 
depiction of manly and heroic virtues and the ordinary emotions 
of life, even if they are presented in a refined domesticated form. 
However self-satisfied he may appear, the poet has an undoubted 
grip over the essential facts of life ; and this is best seen, not in 
the studied and elaborate masterpieces of great poets, but in the 
detached lyrical stanzas, in the terse gnomic verses of wordly 
wisdom, in the simple prose tales and fables, and, above all, in 
the ubiquitous delineation of the erotic feeling in its infinite 
variety of moods and fancies. There is indeed a great deal of 
what is conventional, and even artificial, in Sanskrit love-poetry ; 
it speaks of love not in its simplicities but in its subtle moments. 
What is more important to note is that it consists often of the 
exaltation of love for love's sake, the amorous cult, not usually 
of a particular woman, a Beatrice or a Laura, but of woman as 
such, provided she is young and beautiful. But in spite of all 
this, the poets display a perfect knowledge of this great human 
emotion in its richness and variety and in its stimulating situa- 
tions of joy and sorrow, hope and fear, triumph and defeat. If 
they speak of the ideal woman, the real woman is always before 


their eyes. The rhetorical commonplaces and psychological 
refinements seldom obscure the reality of the sentiment ; and the 
graceful little pictures of the turns and vagaries of love are often 
remarkable for their fineness of conception, precision of touch 
and delicacy of expression. The undoubted power of pathos 
which the Sanskrit poet possesses very often invests these erotic 
passages with a deeper and more poignant note ; and the poetical 
expression of recollective tenderness in the presence of suffering, 
such as we find in Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti, is unsurpassable for 
its vividness of imagery and unmistakable tone of emotional 
earnestness. But here again the general tendency is to elaborate 
pathetic scenes in the theatrical sense, and to leave nothing to 
the imagination of the reader. The theorists are indeed emphatic 
that tlie sentiment should be suggested rather than expressed, 
and never lend their authority to the fatal practice of wordy 
exaggeration ; but this want of balance is perhaps due not 
entirely to an ineffective love of parade and futile adorning of 
trivialities, but also to an extreme seriousness of mind and 
consequent want of humour, which never allow the poet to 
attain the necessary sense of proportion and aloofness. There 
is enough of wit in Sanskrit literature, and it is often 
strikingly effective ; but there is little of the saving grace of 
humour and sense of the ridiculous. Its attempts at both comic 
and pathetic effects are, therefore, often unsuccessful ; and, as 
we have said, it very seldom achieves comedy in its higher forms 
or trngedy in its deeper sense. 

But the seriousness, as well as the artificiality, of Sanskrit 
literature is very often relieved by a wonderful feeling for 
natural scenery, which is both intimate and real. In spite of 
a great deal of magnificently decorative convention in painting, 
there is very often the poet's freshness of observation, as well as 
the direct recreative or reproductive touch. In the delineation 
of human emotion, aspects of nature are very often skilfully 
interwoven ; and most of the effective similes and metaphors of 
Sanskrit love-poetry are drawn from the surrounding familiar 


scenes. The J&tu-sarfihara, attributed to Kalidasa, reviews the six 
Indian seasons in detail, and explains elegantly, if not with deep 
feeiing f the meaning of the seasons for the lover. The same power 
of utilizing nature as the background of human emotion is seen 
in the Megha-diita, where the grief of the separated lovers is set 
in the midst of splendid natural scenery. The tropical summer 
and the rains play an important part in the emotional life of 
the people. It is during the commencement of the monsoon 
that the traveller returns home after long absence, and the expect- 
ant wives look at the clouds in eagerness, lifting up the ends of 
their curls in their hands; while the maiden, who in hot summer 
distributes water to the thirsty traveller at the wayside resting 
places, the Prapa-palika as she is called, naturally evokes a large 
number of erotic verses, which are now scattered over the Antho- 
logies. Autumns also inspires beautiful sketches with its clear 
blue sky, flocks of white flying geese and meadows ripe with 
corn ; and spring finds a place with its smelling mango-blossoms, 
southern breeze and swarm of humming bees. The groves 
and gardens of nature form the background not only to these 
little poems, and to the pretty little love-intrigues of the Sanskrit 
plays, but also to the larger human drama played in the hermi- 
tage of Kanva, to the passionate madness of Pururavas, to the 
deep pathos of Rama's hopeless grief for Sita in the forest of 
Dandaka, and to the fascinating love of Krsna and Radha on the 
banks of the Yamuna. 

It would appear that even if the Kavya literature was 
magnificent in partial accomplishment, its development was 
considerably hampered by the conditions under which it grew, 
and the environment in which it flourished. If it has great 
merits, its defects are equally great. It is easier, however, 
to magnify the defects and forget the merits ; and it is often 
difficult to realise the entire mentality of these poets in order 
to appreciate their efforts in their proper light. The marvellous 
results attained even within very great limitations show that 
was surely nothing wrong with the genius of the poets, 


but something was wrong in the literary atmosphere, which* 
cramped its progress and prevented the fullest enfranchisement 
of the passion and the imagination. The absence of another 
literature for comparison for the later Prakrit and allied 
specimens are mainly derivative was also a serious drawback^ 
which would partially explain why its outlook is so limited and 
the principles of poetic art and practice so stereotyped. India, 
through ages, never stood in absolute isolation, and it could 
assimilate and transmute what it received ; but Sanskrit 
literature had very few opportunities of a real contact with any 
other great literature. As in the drama, so in the romance 
and other spheres, we cannot say that there is any reliable 
ground to suppose that it received any real impetus from Greek 
or other sources; and it is a pity that such an impetus never 
came to give it new impulses and save it from stagnation. 

It should also be remembered that the term Kavya is not 
co-extensive with what is understood by the word poem or 
poetry in modern times. It is clearly distinguished from the 
' epic/ to which Indian tradition applies the designation of 
Itihasa; but the nomenclature ' court-epic ' as a term of com- 
promise is misleading. The underlying conception, general 
outlook, as well as the principles which moulded the Kavya are, 
as we have seen, somewhat different and peculiar. Generally 
speaking, the Kavya, with its implications and reticences, is 
never simple and untutored in the sense in which these 
terms can be applied to modern poetry; while sentimental 
and romantic content, accompanied by perfection of form, 
subtlety of expression and ingenious embellishment, is regarded, 
more or less, as essential. The Sanskrit Kavya is wholly 
dominated by a self-conscious idea of art and method; it 
is not meant for undisciplined enjoyment, nor for the 
satisfaction of causal interest. The rationale is furnished 
by its super-normal or super-individual character, recognised 
by poetic theory, which rules out personal passion and empha- l 
sises purely artistic emotion. This is also obvious from the 



fact that the bulk of this literature is in the metrical form. 
But both theory and practice make the Kavya extensive enough 
to comprehend in its scope any literary work of the imagination, 
and refuse to recognise metre as essential. It, therefore, includes 
poetry, drama, prose romance, folk-tale, didactic fable, historical 
writing and philosophical verse, religious and gnomic stanza, 
in fact, every branch of literature which may be contained 
within the denomination of belles-lettres in the widest sense, to 
the exclusion of whatever is purely technical or occasional. One 
result of this attitude is that while the drama tends towards the 
dramatic poem, the romance, tales and even historical or 
biographical sketches are highly coloured by poetical and stylistic 
effects. In construction, vocabulary and ornament, the prose 
also becomes poetical. It is true that in refusing to admit that 
the distinction between prose and poetry lies in an external fact, 
namely the metre, there is a recognition of the true character of 
poetic expression ; but in practice it considerably hampers the 
development of prose as prose. It is seldom recognised that 
verse and prose rhythms have entirely different values, and that 
the melody and diction of the one are not always desirable in the 
other. As the instruments of the two harmonies are not clearly 
differentiated as means of literary expression, simple and 
vigorous prose hardly ever develops in Sanskrit ; and its achieve- 
ment is poor in comparison with that of poetry, which almost 
exclusively predominates and even approximates prose towards 


The question of the origin and individual characteristics 
of the various types of literary composition comprised under the 
Kavya will be discussed in their proper places ; but since drama, 
like poetry, forms one of its important branches, we may briefly 
consider here its beginnings, as well as its object, scope and 
method^ The drama, no doubt, as a subdivision of the Kavya A 


partakes of most of its general characteristics, but since its 
form and method are different, it is necessary to consider it 

The first definite, but scanty, record of the Sanskrit drama 
is found in the dramatic fragments, discovered in Central Asia 
and belonging to the early Kusana period, one of these fragments 
being actually the work of Asvagbosa. The discovery, of which 
we shall speak more later, is highly important from the histori- 
cal point of view ; for the features which these fragments reveal 
undoubtedly indicate that the drama had already attained 
the literary form and technique which persist throughout its 
later course ; and its fairly developed character suggests that 
it must have had a history behind it. This history, unfortun- 
ately, cannot be traced today, for the earlier specimens which 
might have enabled us to do so, appear to have perished in 
course of time. The orthodox account of the origin of the 
Sanskrit drama, by describing it as a gift from heaven in the 
form of a developed art invented by the divine sage Bharata, 
envelops it in an impenetrable mist of myth ; while modern 
scholarship, professing to find the earliest manifestation of a 
ritual drama in the dialogue-hymns of the Rgvcda and presuming 
a development of the dramatic from the religious after the manner 
of the Greek drama, shrouds the question of its origin in a still 
greater mist of speculation. 

The original purpose 1 of some fifteen hymns of the Rgveda^ 
which are obviously dialogues and are recognised as such by the 
Indian tradition, 2 is frankly obscure. Most of them, like those 
of Pururavas and Urvasi" (x. 95), Yama and Yarn! (x. 10), 
Indra, Indrani and Vrsakapi (x. 80), Saramfi and the Panis 
(x. 108), are not in any way connected with the religious sacrifice, 

1 For a summary and discussion of the various theories and for references, see Keith 
in ZDMG, Ixiv, 1910, p. 534 f, in JRAS, 1911, p. 970 f and in his Sanskrit Drama (hereafter 
cited as SD), p. 13 f. 

2 Both Saunaka and Y&ska ay ply the term Samvada-sukta to most of these hymni, but 
sometimes the terms Itihasa and Xkhyana are also employed. Even assuming popular origin 
and dramatic elements, the hymns are in no sense ballads or ballad-plays. 


nor do they represent the usual type of religious hymns of prayer 
and thanksgiving ; but they appear to possess a mythical or 
legendary content. It has been claimed that here we have the 
first signs of the Indian drama. The suggestion is that these 
dialogues call for miming ; and connected with the ritual dance, 
song and music, they represent a kind of refined and sacerdotal- 
ised dramatic spectacle, 1 or in fact, a ritual drama, or a Vedic 
Mystery Play in a nutshell, 2 in which the priests assuming the 
roles of divine, mythical or human interlocutors danced and 
sang 8 the hymns in dialogues. To this is added the further 
presumption 4 that the hymns represent an old type of composi- 
tion, narrative in character and Indo-European in antiquity, in 
which there existed originally both prose and verse ; but the 
verse, representing the points of interest or feeling, was carefully 
constructed and preserved, while the prose, acting merely as a con- 
necting link, was left to be improvised, and therefore never re- 
mained fixed nor was handed down. It is assumed that the dialogues 
in the Kgvedic hymns represent the verse, the prose having 
disappeared before or after their incorporation into the Samhita ; 
and the combination of prose and verse in the Sanskrit drama 
is alleged to be a legacy of this hypothetical Vedic Akhyana. 

It must be admitted at once that the dramatic quality of the 
hymns is considerable, and that the connexion between the drama 
and the religious song and dance in general has been made clear 
by modern research. At first sight, therefore, the theory appears 
plausible; but it is based on several unproved and unnecessary 
assumptions. It is not necessary, for instance, nor is there any 
authority, for finding a ritual explanation of these hymns ; for 

1 8. L6vi, Tht&lre indien, Paris, 1890, p. 333f. 

2 Ij. von Scbroeder, Mysteriumund Mimus im fgveda, Leipzig, 1908; A. HilJebrandt, 
Bber die Anfdnge dee indischen Dramas t Munich, 1914, p. 22 f. 

3 J. Hertel in W ZKM, XVIII, K04, p. 59 f, 137 f ; XXIIJ, p. 273 f ; XXIV, p. 117 f. 
Hertel maintains that unless singing is presumed, it is not possible for a single speaker to 
make the necessary distinction between the different speakers presupposed in the dialogues of 
the hymns. 

< H. OMenberg in ZDMG, XXXII, p. 64 f ; XXXIX, p. 62 ; and also in Zur Geschichte 
d. altindischen Prosa, Berlin, 1917, p. 63f. 


neither the Indian tradition nor even modern scholarship admits 
the presumption that everything contained in the Rgveda is con- 
nected with the ritual. As a matter of fact, no ritual employment 
for these hymns is prescribed in the Vedic texts and commen- 
taries. We have also no record of such happenings as are com- 
placently imagined, nor of any ritual dance actually practised by 
the Vedic priests; the Rgvedic, as opposed to the Samavedic, 
hymns were recited and not sung; and later Vedic literature 
knows nothing of a dramatic employment of these hymns. It is 
true that some of the Vedic ritual, especially the fertility rites, 
like the Mahavrata, contains elements that are dramatic, but the 
existence of a dramatic ritual is no evidence of the existence of a 
ritual drama. It is also not necessary to conceive of these 
Rgvedic dialogue-hymns as having been in their origin a mixture 
of poor prose and rich verse for the purpose of explaining the 
occurrence of prose and verse in the Sanskrit drama from its very 
beginning ; for the use of prose in drama is natural arid requires 
no explanation, and, considering the epic tradition and the general 
predominance of the metrical form in Sanskrit literature, the 
verse is not unexpected. Both prose and verse in the Sanskrit 
drama are too intimately related to have been separate in their 

The modified form of the above theory, 1 namely, that the 
Vedic ritual drama itself is borrowed from an equally hypothetical 
popular mime of antiquity, which is supposed to have included 
dialogue and abusive language, as well as song and dance, is an 
assumption which does not entirely dismiss the influence of reli- 
gious ceremonies, but believes that the dramatic element in the 
ritual, as well as the drama itself, had a popular origin. But to 
accept it, in the absence of all knowledge about popular or reli- 
gious mimetic entertainment in Vedic times, 2 is extremely 

1 Sten Konow, Das ind. Drama, Berlin and Leipzig, 1920, p. 42 f. 

3 The analogy of the Yatrii, which is as much secular as bound up with religion in iti 
origin, is interesting, but there is nothing to show that such forms of popular entertainment 
actually existed in Vedic times. 


difficult. The influence of the element of abusive language and 
amusing antics in the Horse-sacrifice, as well as in the Maha- 
vrata, 1 appears to have been much exaggerated; for admittedly it 
is an ingredient of magic rites, and there is no evidence either of 
its popular character or of its alleged impetus towards the growth 
of the religious drama. The history of the Vidusaka of the 
Sanskrit drama, 2 which is sometimes cited in support, is at most 
obscure. He is an anomalous enough character, whose name 
implies that he is given to abuse and who is yet rarely such in the 
actual drama, who is a Brahmin and a ' high ' character and who 
yet speaks Prakrit and indulges in absurdities ; but his derivation 
from an imaginary degraded Brahmin of the hypothetical secular 
drama, on the one hand, is as unconvincing as his affiliation to a 
ritual drama, on the other, which is presumed from the abusive 
dialogue of the Brahmin student and the hataera in the Maha- 
vrata ceremony. An interesting parallel is indeed drawn from the 
history of the Elizabethan Pool, who was originally the ludicrous 
Devil of mediaeval Mystery Plays ; l{ but an argument from analogy 
is not a proof of fact. The Vidusaka's attempts at amusing by 
his cheap witticisms about his gastronomical sensibilities are 
inevitable concessions to the groundlings and do not require the 
far-fetched invocation of a secular drama for explanation. The 
use of Prakrit and Prakritic technical terminology in the Sanskrit 
drama, again, has been adduced in support of its popular 
origin, but we have no knowledge of any primitive Prakrit drama 
or of any early Prakrit drama turned into Sanskrit, and the 
occurrence of Prakritic technical terms maybe reasonably referred 
to the practice of the actors. 

It seems, therefore, that even if the elements of the drama 
were present in Vedic times, there is no proof that the drama, 

1 A. Hillebrandfc, RitualUtteratuT, Strassburg, 1897, p. 157. 

* Sten KonoWj op. cff., pp. 14-15. See also J. Huizioga, De Vidusaka in het indisch 
tooneel, Groningen, 1897, p. 64 f, and M. Scbuyler, The Origin of the Viduaka in JAOS, XX, 
1899, p. 838 f. 

3 A. Hillebrandt, Die Anf&nge, p. 24 f . 


in however rudimentary form, was actually known. The actor 
is not mentioned, nor does any dramatic terminology occur. 
There may have been some connexion between the dramatic 
religious ceremonies and the drama in embryo, but the theory 
which seeks the origin of the Sanskrit drama in the sacred dance, 
eked out by song, gesture and dialogue, on the analogy of what 
happened in Greece or elsewhere, is still under the necessity of 
proving its thesis by actual evidence ; and little faith can be 
placed on arguments from analogy. The application of Ridge- 
way's theory J of the origin of drama in general in the animistic 
worship of the dead is still less authenticated in the case of the 
Sanskrit drama ; for the performance is never meant here for 
the gratification of departed spirits, nor are the characters 
regarded as their representatives. 

As a reaction against the theory of sacred origin, we have 
the hypothesis of the purely secular origin of the Sanskrit drama 
in the Puppet-play 2 and the Shadow-play' 1 ; but here again the 
suggestions do not bear critical examination, and the lack of exact 
data precludes us from a dogmatic conclusion. While the refer- 
ence to the puppet-play in the Mahabhdrata * cannot be exactly 
dated, its supposed antiquity and prevalence in India, if correct, 
do not necessarily make it the source of the Sanskrit drama ; and 
its very name (from putrika, puttalika) implies that it is only a 
make-believe or imitation and presupposes the existence of the 
regular play. The designations Sutradhara and Sthapaka need 
not refer to any original manipulation of puppets by * pulling 
strings' or 'arranging/ but they clearly refer to the original 

1 Ae set forth in Dramas and Dramatic Dances of Non-European Races, Cambridge, 
1938, also in JRAS, 1916, p. 821 f, 1917, p. 143 f, effectively criticised by Keith in JRAS, 
1916, p. 335 f , 1917, p. 140 f . 

2 R. Piachel in Die Heimat des Puppenspiels, Halle, 1900 (tra. into English by Mildred 
0. Tawney, London, 1902). 

3 Pischel in Das aUindische Schattenspiel in SBAW, 1906, pp. 482-602, further ela- 
borated by H. Liiders in Die Saubhikas : ein Beitrag zur Geschichte d. indischen Dramas IB 
SBAW.WIQ, p. 698 f. 

* XII. 294. 5, as explained by Nllakantha. 


function of the director or stage-manager of laying out and con- 
structing the temporary playhouse. With regard to the shadow- 
play, in which shadow-pictures are produced by projection from 
puppets on the reverse side of a thin white curtain, the evidence 
of its connexion with the drama is late and indefinite, 1 and 
therefore inconclusive. Whatever explanation 2 may be given of 
the extremely obscure passage in Patafijali's Mahabhasya (ad. iii. 
1. 26) on the display of the Saubhikas, there is hardly any 
foundation for the view 8 that the Saubhikas discharged the func- 
tion of showing shadow-pictures and explaining them to the 
audience. The exact meaning, again, of the term Chaya-nataka, 
found in certain plays, is uncertain ; it is not admitted as a 
known genre in Sanskrit dramatic theory, and none of the so- 
called Chaya-natakas is different in any way from the normal 
drama. The reference to the Javanese shadow-play does not 
strengthen the position, for it is not yet proved that the Javanese 
type was borrowed from India or that its analogue prevailed in 
India in early times ; and its connexion with the Sanskrit drama 
cannot be established until it is shown that the shadow-play 
itself sprang up without a previous knowledge of the drama. 

Apart from the fact, however, that the primitive drama in 
general shows a close connexion with religion, and apart also 
from the unconvincing theory of the ritualistic origin of the 
Sanskrit drama, there are still certain facts connected with the 
Sanskrit drama itself which indicate that, if it was in its origin 
not exactly of the nature of a religious drama, it must have been 
considerably influenced in its growth by religion or religious 
cults. In the absence of sufficient material, the question does 

1 On the whole question and for references, eee Keith in SD t pp, 58-57 and 8. K. De 
in IHQ, VII, 1931, p. 542 f . 

* Various explanations have been suggested by Kayyata in his commentary ; by A. 
W*ber in Ind. Studien, XIII, p. 488 f. ; by Le>i, op. tit., p. 315 ; by Ltiders in the work cited 
above; by Winternitz in ZDMG. t LXXIV, 1920, p. 118 ff. ; by Hillebrandt in ZDMG, 
LXXII, 1918, p. 227 f. ; by Keith in BSOS, I, pt. 4, p. 27 f. f and by K. G. Sabrahmanya 
in JRAS, 1925, p. 502. 

1 Ltiders, op. cit. supported by Winternitz, but effectively criticised by Hilltbrandt 
and Keith. 


not admit of clear demonstration, but it can be generally accepted 
from some undoubted indications. One of the early descriptions 
of scenic representation that we have is that given by Patanjali, 
mentioned above ; it is interesting that the entertainment 
is associated with the Visnu-Krsna legend of the slaying of 
Kamsa and the binding of Bali. It may not have been drama 
proper, but it was not a mere shadow-play nor recitation of the 
type made by the Granthikas ; it may have been some kind of 
pantomimic, or even dramatic, performance distinctly carried out 
by action. It should be noted in this connexion that, on the 
analogy of the theory of the origin of the Greek drama from 
a mimic conflict of summer and winter, Keith sees 1 in the legend 
of the slaying of Kainsa a refined version of an older vegetation 
ritual in which there was a demolition of the outworn spirit of 
vegetation, and evolves an elaborate theory of the origin of Indian 
tragedy from this idea of a contest. But the tendency to read 
nature-myth or nature- worship into every bit of legend, history 
or folklore, which was at one time much in vogue, is no longer 
convincing ; and in the present case it is gratuitous, and even 
misleading, to invoke Greek parallels to explain things Indian. 
It is sufficient to recognise that here we have an early indi- 
cation of the close connexion of some dramatic spectacle with 
the Visnu-Krsna legend, the fascination of which persists 
throughout the history of Sanskrit literature. Again, it may 
be debatable whether SaurasenI as the normal prose Prakrit of 
the Sanskrit drama came from the Krsna cult, which is supposed 
to have its ancient home in Surasena or Mathura ; but there 
can be no doubt that in the fully developed Sanskrit drama the 
Krsna cult 2 came to play an important part. The Holi-festival 
of the Krsna cult, which is essentially a spring festival, is 
sometimes equated with the curious ceremony of the decoration 
and worship of Indra's flagstaff (Jarjara- or Indradhvaja-puja) 

1 In ZDMG, LXIV, 1910, p. 534 f. ; in JRAS, 1911, p. 079, 1912, p. 411; in SD, p. 87 f. 

2 On the Kfspa cult, see Winternitz in ZDMG, LXXIV, 1920, p. 118 f. 

7 1343B 


prescribed by Bharata as one of the preliminaries (Purva-ranga) 
of enacting a play, on the supposition that it is analogical to 
the Maypole ceremony of England and the pagan phallic rites of 
Eome. The connexion suggested is as hypothetical as Bharata's 
legendary explanation that with the flagstaff Tndra drove away 
the Asuras, who wanted to disturb the enacting of a play by the 
gods, is fanciful ; but it has been made the somewhat slender 
foundation of a theory 1 that the Indian drama originated 
from a banner festival (Dhvaja-maha) in honour of Indra. The 
existence of the Nandl and other religious preliminaries of the 
Sanskrit drama is quite sufficient to show that the ceremony of 
Jarjara-puja, whatever be its origin, is only a form of the 
customary propitiation of the gods, and may have nothing to 
do with the origin of the drama itself. It is, however, 
important to note that religious service forms a part of the 
ceremonies preceding a play ; and it thus strengthens the 
connexion of the drama with religion. Like Indra and 
Krsna, Siva 2 is also associated with the drama, for Bharata 
ascribes to him and his spouse the invention of the Tandava 
and the Lasya, the violent and the tender dance, respectively ; 
and the legend of Kama has no less an importance than that of 
Krsna in supplying the theme of the Sanskrit drama. 

All this, as well as the attitude of the Buddhist and Jaina 
texts towards the drama, 8 would suggest that, even if the 
theory of its religious origin fails, the Sanskrit drama probably 
received a great impetus from religion in its growth. In the 
absence of decisive evidence, it is better to admit our inability 
to explain the nature and extent of the impetus from this and 
other sources, than indulge in conjectures which are of facts, 
fancies and theories all compact. It seems probable, however, 
that the literary antecedents of the drama, as of poetry, are to 
be sought mainly in the great Epics of India. The references to 

1 Haraprasad Sastri in JPASB, V, 1909, p. 351 f. 

2 Bloch in ZDMG, LXII, 1908, p. 655. 

3 Keith, SD. pp. 43-44. 


the actor and dramatic performance in the composite and 
undatable texts of the Epics and the Hari-vamsa need not be of 
conclusive value, nor should stress be laid on the attempted 
derivation of the word Kusllava, 1 denoting an actor, from Kusa 
and Lava of the Ramayana ; but it seems most probable that 
the early popularity of epic recitation, in which the reciter 
accompanied it with gestures and songs, can be connected with 
the dramatisation of epic stories. How the drama began we 
do not know, nor do we know exactly when it began; but the 
natural tendency to dramatisation, by means of action, of a 
vivid narrative (such, for instance, as is suggested by the 
Mahabhasya passage) may have been stimulated to a great degree 
by the dramatic recitation of epic tales. No doubt, the develop- 
ed drama is not a mere dramatisation of epic material, and it 
is also not clear how the idea of dramatic conflict and analysis 
of action in relation to character were evolved; but the Sanskrit 
drama certainly inherits from the Epics, in which its interest 
is never lost throughout its history, its characteristic love of 
description, which it shares with Sanskrit poetry ; and both 
drama and poetry draw richly also upon the narrative and 
didactic content of the Epics. The close approximation also of 
drama to poetry made by Sanskrit theory perhaps points to the 
strikingly parallel, but inherently diverse, development from a 
common epic source ; and it is not surprising that early poets 
like Asvaghosa and Kalidasa were also dramatists. The other 

1 L6vi, op. cit., p. 312; Sben Konow, op. f., p. 9. It is uob clear if the term is 
really a compound of irregular formation; and the etymology /wHZ/a, ' of bad morals', is 
clever in view of the proverbial morals of the actor, but farfetched. The word Bharata, also 
denoting the actor, is of course derived from the mythical Bharata of the Natya-sastra, and 
has nothing to do with Bharata, still less with Bhat i which is clearly from Bha$ta. The 
nauie Ndja, which is apparently a Prakritisation of the earlier rooc nrt ' to dance ' (contra 
D. K. Minkad, Types of Sanskrit Drama, Karachi, 1920, p. 6 f) probibly indicates that he 
was originally, and perhaps mainly, a dancer, who acquired the mimetic art. The distinction 
between Nrtta f Dancing), Nrty a (Dancing with gestures and feeliugs) and Natya (Drama 
with histrionics), made by the Datancpaka (1.7-9) and other works, is certainly late, but 
it is not uuhistorical ; for it explains the evolution of the Itupaka and Uparupaka 


literary tendency of the drama, namely, its lyric inspiration and 
metrical variety of sentimental verses, however, may have been 
supplied by the works of early lyrists, some of whose fragments 
are preserved by Patanjali. The extant dramatic literature, like 
the poetic, does not give an adequate idea of its probable 
antiquity 1 ; but that the dramatic art probably developed some- 
what earlier even than the poetic can be legitimately inferred 
from the admission of the rhetoricians that they borrow the 
theory of sentiment from dramaturgy and apply it to poetics, as 
well as from the presumably earlier existence of the Natya-astra 
of Bharata than that of any known works on poetics, 

The extreme paucity of our knowledge regarding the impetus 
which created the drama has led to the much discussed sugges- 
tion 2 that some influence, if not the en-tire impetus, might have 
come from the Greek drama. Historical researches have now 
established the presence of Greek principalities in India ; and it 
is no longer possible to deny that the Sanskrit drama must have 
greatly developed during the period when the Greek influence was 
present in India. As we know nothing about the causes of this 
development, and as objections regarding chronology and contact 

1 Panini's reference to Nata-sutras composed by Silalin and Kr Sasva (IV. 3. 11.0-111) has 
been dismissed as doubtful, for there is no means of determining the meaning of the word 
Nata (see above), which may refer to a mere dancer or mimer. But the drama, as well as 
the dramatic performance, is known to Buddhist literature, not only clearly to works of 
uncertain date like the Avadana-Sataka (II. 21 >, the Divyavaddna (pp. 357, 360-61j and the 
Lalita-vistara (XII, p. 178), but also probably to the Buddhist Suttas, which forbid the monks 
watching popular shows. The exact nature of these shows 13 not clear, but there is no reason 
to presume that they were not dramatic entertainments. See Winternitz in WZKM, 
XXVII, 1913, p. 39f ; L6vi, op. cit , p. 819 f. The mention of the word Na$a or Nataka in the 
undatable and uncertain texts of the Epics (including the Hari-vamta) is of little value 
for chronological purposes. 

2 A. Weber in Ind. Studien, II, p. 148 and Die Griechen in Indien in SBAW t 1890, p. 920; 
repudiated by Pischel in Die Rezension der tfakuntala, Breslau, 1875, p. 19 and in SB A W , 
19C6, p. 602; but elaborately supported, in a modified form, by Windisch in Der griechische 
Einfluss im indtschen Drama (in Verhl. d. 7. Intern. Orient. Congress] Berlin, 1882, pp. 3 f. 
See Sten Konow,op. ct't., pp. 4042 and Keith, SD t pp. 57- ( 38, for a discussion of the theory and 
further references. W. W. Tarn reviews the whole question in his Greeks in BacLria and 
Indtc, Cambridge, 1938, but he is extremely cautious on the subject of Greek influence on the 

Sinikrit drama; see Keith's criticism in D. R. Bhandarkar Volume, Calcutta, 1940, p. 224 f. 


are not valid, there is nothing a priori impossible in the presump- 
tion of the influence of the Greek drama on the Indian. The 
difficulty of Indian exclusiveness and conservatism is neutralised 
by instances of the extraordinary genius of India in assimilating 
what it receives from foreign sources in other spheres of art and 
science, notwithstanding the barrier of language, custom and 

But there are difficulties in adducing positive proof in support 
of the presumption. The evidence regarding actual performance 
of Greek plays in the courts of Greek princes in India is extremely 
scanty; 1 but more important is the fact that there are no decisive 
points of contact, but only casual coincidences, 2 between the 
Sanskrit drama and the New Attic Comedy, which is regarded as 
the source of the influence. No reliance can be placed on the use 
of the device of token of recognition 3 common to the two dramas. 
Although the forms in which it has come down to us do not 
antedate the period of supposed Greek influence, the Indian lite- 
rature of tales reveals a considerable use of this motif ; and there 
are also epic instances 4 which seem to preclude the possibility of 
its being borrowed from the Greek drama. It is a motif common 
enough in the folk-tale in general, and inevitable in primitive 
society as a means of identification ; and its employment in the 
Sanskrit drama can be reasonably explained as having been of 
independent origin. No satisfactory inference, again, can be 

1 L6vi, op. eft., p. GO, but contra Keith, SD,p. 59. 

2 Such as division into acts, number of acts, departure of all actors from the stage at the 
end of the acts, the scenic convention of asides, the announcing 1 of the entry and identity of a 
new character by a remark from a character already on the stage, etc. The Indian Prologue 
is entirely different from the Classical, being a part of the preliminaries and having a definite 
character and ob.'ecfc. Max Lindenau's exposition IBeitrdge zur altindischen Rasalehre, 
Leipzig 1913, p. v) of the relation between Bharafca's Natya-sdstra and Aristotle's Poetik is 
interesting, but proves nothing. 

3 E.g., the ring in MdlaviLdgnimitra and Sakuntala t stone of union and arrow (of 
Ayus) in Vikramorvatiya, necklace iu Ratnavali, the jewel falling from the sky in Nagdnanda, 
the garland in MdJatl-mddhava and Kunda-mdld, the Jrmbhaka weapons in Uttara-tarita t the 
clay cart in Mrcchakatika, the seal in Mudrd-rd!fasa, etc. 

4 Keith, SD, p, 63. 


drawn from the resemblance of certain characters, especially the 
Vita, the Vidusaka, and the Sakara. The parasite occurs in the 
Greek and Roman comedy, but he lacks the refinement and 
culture of the Indian Vita; the origin of the Vidusaka, 
as we have seen, is highly debatable, but his Brahmin 
caste and high social position distinguish him from the 
vulgar slave (servus currens) of the classical comedy ; and we know 
from Pataiijali that the Sakara was originally a person of Saka 
descent and was apparently introduced into the Sanskrit drama 
as a boastful, ignorant and ridiculous villain at a time when the 
marital alliance of Indian kings with Saka princesses had fallen 
into disfavour. 1 These characters are not rare in any society, 
and can be easily explained as having been conceived from actual 
life in India. The argument, again, from the Yavanika 2 or 
curtain, which covered the entrance from the retiring room 
(Nepathya) or stood at the back of the stage between the Ranga- 
pltha and the Eangaslrsa, and which is alleged to have received 
its name from its derivation from the lonians(Yavanas) or Greeks, 
is now admitted to be of little value, for the simple reason that 
the Greek theatre, so far as we know, had no use for the curtain. 
The theory is modified with the suggestion that the Indian curtain 

1 He is represented as the brother of the king's concubine; cf. Sdlutya-darpana, III, 44. 
Cf E. J. lUpson's article on the Drama (Indian) in ERE, Vol. IV, p. 885. 

2 Windhch, op cit., p. 24 f. The etymology given by Indian lexicographers fiom java t 
1 speed f (in the Prakrit Javanika form of the word), or the deiivation from the root yu ' to 
cover,* is ingenious, but not convincing. There i 3 nothing to confirm the opinion that the 
form Jainanika is a scribal mistake r B6thlingk and Roth) or merely secondary (Sten Konow), 
for it is recognised in the Indian lexicons and occurs in some MSS. of plays. If this was the 
original form, then it would signify a curtain only (from the root yam t * to restrain, cover '), or 
double curtain covering the two entrances from the Nepathya (from yama, ' twin ') ; but there 
is no authority for holding that the curtain was parted in the middle. See IHQ, VII, p. 480 f. 
The word YavanikS, is apparently known to Bharata, as it occurs at 5. 11-12 in the description 
of the elements of the Purvarafiga. Abhinavagnpta explains that its position was between 
the Kungas'Irsa and Rangapltha (ed. QOS, p. 212). The other names are Pati, Pratis'iift and 
Tiraskaranl. There was apparently no drop curtain on the Indian stage. -The construction of 
the Indian theatre, as described by Bharata, has little resemblance to that of the Greek ; and 
Th. Blocb's discovery of the remains of a Greek theatre in the Sitavenga Cave (ZDMG, 
LVITI, p. 456 f ) is of doubtful value as a decisive piece of evidence. 


is so called because the material of the cloth was derived from 
the Greek merchants ; but even this does not carry us very far to 
prove Greek influence on the Indian stage arrangement. 

It will be seen that even if certain striking parallels and 
coincidences are urged and admitted between the Greek and the 
Sanskrit drama, the search for positive signs of influence 
produces only a negative result. There are so many funda- 
mental differences that borrowing or influence is out of the 
question, and the affinities should be regarded as independent 
developments. The Sanskrit drama is essentially of the romantic 
rather than of the classical type, and affords points of 
resemblance to the Elizabethan, rather than to the Greek, drama. 
The unities of time and place are entirely disregarded between 
the acts as well as within the act. Even twelve years elapse 
between one act and another, and the time-limit of an act 1 
often exceeds twenty-four hours ; while the scene easily shifts 
from earth to heaven. Eomantic and fabulous elements are 
freely introduced ; tragi-comedy or melodrama is not infrequent; 
verse is regularly mixed with prose ; puns and verbal cleverness 
are often favoured. There is no chorus, but there is a metrical 
benediction and a prologue which are, however, integral parts 
of the play and set the plot in motion. While the parallel of 
the Vidusaka is found in the Elizabethan Fool, certain dramatic 
devices, such as the introduction of a play within a play 2 and 
the use of a token of recognition, are common. There is no 
limit in the Sanskrit drama to the number of characters, who 
may be either divine, semi-divine or human. The plot may 
be taken from legend or from history, but it may also be drawn 
from contemporary life and manners. With very rare excep- 
tions, the main interest almost invariably centres in a love-story, 
love being, at least in practice, the only passion which forms 

1 On time'analysis of Sanskrit plays (Kalidasa and Hsrsa), ee Jackson in JAOS, 
XX, 1899, pp. 841-59; XXI, 1900, pp. SB- 108. 

3 As in Priyadartika, Uttara-rama-carita and Bala-ramayana See Juck son's appendix 
to the ed. of the fiist play, pp. ev-cxi. 


the dominant theme of this romantic drama. Special structures 
of a square, rectangular or triangular shape for the presentation 
of plays are described in the Ndtya-sastra, 1 but they have little 
resemblance to the Greek or modern theatre and must have 
been evolved independently. Very often plays appear to have 
been enacted in the music hall of the royal palace, and there 
were probably no special contrivances, nor elaborate stage-proper- 
ties, nor even scenery in the ordinary sense of the word. The 
lack of these theatrical makeshifts was supplied by the lively 
imagination of the audience, which was aided by a profusion 
of verses describing the imaginary surroundings, by mimetic 
action and by an elaborate system of gestures possessing a con- 
ventional significance. 

Besides these more or less formal requirements, there are 
some important features which fundamentally distinguish the 
Sanskrit drama from all other dramas, including the Greek. 
The aim of the Sanskrit dramatists, who were mostly idealists 
in outlook and indifferent to mere fact or incident, is not to 
mirror life by a direct portrayal of action or character, but 
(as in poetry) to evoke a particular sentiment (Rasa) in the 
mind of the audience, be it amatory, heroic or quietistic. As 
this is regarded, both in theory and practice, to be the sole 
object as much of the dramatic art as of the poetic, everything 
else is subordinated to this end. Although the drama is des- 
cribed in theory as an imitation or representation of situations 
(Avasthanukrti), the plot, as well as characterisation, is a 
secondary element ; its complications are to be avoided so that 
it may not divert the mind from the appreciation of the senti- 
ment to other interests. A well known theme, towards which 
the reader's mind would of itself be inclined, is normally 
preferred ; the poet's skill is concerned entirely with the develop- 
ing of its emotional possibilities. The criticism, therefore, that 
the Sanskrit dramatist shows little fertility in the invention of 

1 On the theatre see D. R. Maukad in 1HQ, VIII, 1932, pp. 480-99. 


plots may be just, but it fails to take into account this peculiar 
object of the Sanskrit drama. 

Thus, the Sanskrit drama came to possess an atmosphere 
of sentiment and poetry, which was conducive to idealistic 
creation at the expense of action and characterisation, but 
which in the lesser dramatists overshadowed all that was drama- 
tic in it. The analogy is to be found in Indian painting 
and sculpture, which avoid the crude realism of bones and 
muscles and concentrate exclusively on spiritual expression, but 
which often degenerate into formless fantastic creation. This, 
of course, does not mean that reality is entirely banished ; but 
the sentimental and poetic envelopment certainly retards the 
growth of the purely dramatic elements. It is for this reason 
that sentimental verses, couched in a great variety of lyrical 
measures and often strangely undramatic, preponderate and form 
the more essential part of the drama, the prose acting mainly 
as a connecting link, as a mode of communicating facts, or as 
a means of carrying forward the story. The dialogue is^ there- 
fore, more or less neglected in favour of the lyrical stanza, 
to- which its very flatness affords an effective contrast. It also 
follows from this sentimental and romantic bias that typical 
characters are generally preferred to individual figures. This 
leads to the creation of conventional characters, like the king, 
queen, minister, lover and jester, who become in course of time 
crystallised into permanent types ; but this does not mean that 
the ideal heroic, or the very real popular, characters are all 
represented as devoid of common humanity. Carudatta, for 
instance, is not a mere marvel of eminent virtues, but a perfect 
man of the world, whose great qualities are softened by an 
equally great touch of humanity ; nor is Dusyanta a merely 
typical king-lover prescribed by convention ; while the Sakara 
or the Vita in Sudraka's play are finely characterised. These 
and others are taken from nature's never-ending variety of 
everlasting types, but they are no less living individuals. At 
the same time, it cannot be denied there is a tendency to large 



generalisation and a reluctance to deviate from the type. It 
means an indifference to individuality, and consequently to the 
realities of characterisation, plot and action, as well as a corres- 
ponding inclination towards the purely ideal and emotional 
aspects of theme. For this reason also, the Sanskrit drama, 
as a rule, makes the fullest use of the accessories of the lyric, 
dance, music, song and mimetic art. 

As there is, therefore, a fundamental difference in the 
respective conception of the drama, most of the Sanskrit plays, 
judged by modern standards, would not at all be regarded as 
dramas in the strict sense but rather as dramatic poems. In 
some authors the sense of the dramatic becomes hopelessly lost 
in their ever increasing striving after the sentimental and the 
poetic, and they often make the mistake of choosing lyric or epic 
subjects which were scarcely capable of dramatic treitment. As, 
on the one' hand, the drama suffers from its close dependence on 
the epic, so on the other, it concentrates itself rather 
disproportionately on the production of the polished 
lyrical and descriptive stanzas. The absence of scenic aids, no 
doubt, makes the stanzas necessary for vividly suggesting the 
scene or the situation to the imagination of the audience and 
evoking the proper sentiment, but the method progressively 
increases the lyric and emotional tendencies of the drama, and 
elegance and refinement are as much encouraged in the drama as 
in poetry. It is not surprising, therefore, that a modern critic 
should accept only Mudra-raksasa, in the whole range of Sanskrit 
dramatic literature, as a drama proper. This is indeed an 
extreme attitude; for the authors of the Abhijnana-fakuntala or 
of the Mrcchakatika knew very well that they were 
composing dramas and not merely a set of elegant poetical 
passages ; but this view brings out very clearly the characteristic 
aims and limitations of the Sanskrit drama. There is, however, 
one advantage which is not often seen in the modern practical 
productions of the stage-craft. The breath of poetry and 
romance vivifies the Sanskrit drama ; it is seldom of a prosaic 


cast ; it does not represent human beings insipidly under ordinary 
and commonplace circumstances ; it has often the higher and 
more poetic naturalness, which is no less attractive in revealing 
the beauty, as well as the depth, of human character ; and even 
uhen its dramatic qualities are poor it appeals by the richness of 
its poetry. 

As the achievement of concord is a necessary corollary to the 
ideal character of the drama, nothing is allowed to be represented 
on the stage which might offend the sensibility of the audience 
and obstruct the suggestion of the desired sentiment by 
inauspicious, frivolous or undesirable details. This rule regarding 
the observance of stage-decencies includes, among other things, 
the prohibition that death should not be exhibited on the stage. 
This restriction, as well as the serene and complacent attitude of 
the Indian mind towards life, makes it difficult for the drama, as 
for poetry, to depict tragedy in its deeper sense. Pathetic episodes, 
dangers and difficulties may contribute to the unfolding of the 
plot with a view to the evoking of the underlying sentiment, but 
the final result should not be discord. The poetic justice of the 
European drama is unknown in the Sanskrit. The dramatist, 
like the poet, shows no sense of uneasiness, strife or discontent 
in the structure of life, nor in its complexity or difficulty, and 
takes without question the rational order of the world. This 
attitude also accepts, without incredulity or discomfort, the 
intervention of forces beyond control or calculation in the affairs 
of men. Apart from the general idea of a brooding fate or 
destiny, it thinks nothing of a curse or a divine act as an artificial 
device for controlling the action of a play or bringing about a 
solution of its complication. It refuses to rob the world or the 
human life of its mysteries, and freely introduces the marvellous 
and the supernatural, without, however, entirely destroying the 
motives of human action or its responsibility. The dramatic 
conflict, under these conditions, hardly receives a full or logical 
scope ; and however much obstacles may hinder the course of love 
or life, the hero and the heroine must be rewarded in the long 


run, and all is predestined to end well by the achievement of 
perfect happiness and union. There are indeed exceptions to the 
general rule, for the Uru-bhanga 1 has a tragic ending ; while the 
death of Dagaratha occurs on the stage in the Pratima, like that 
of Kamsa in the Bala-carita. There are also instances where the 
rule is obeyed in the letter but not in spirit; lor Vasantasena's 
apparent murder in the Mrcchakatika occurs on the stage, and 
the dead person is restored to life on the stage in the Nagananda. 
Nevertheless, the injunction makes Kaiidasa and Bhavabhuti 
alter the tragic ending of the Urvasi legend and the Rdmayana 
story respectively into one of happy union, while the sublimity 
of the self-sacrifice of Jimutavahana, which suggests real 
tragedy, ends in a somewhat lame denouement of divine interven- 
tion and complete and immediate reward of virtue at the end. 
In the Western drama, death overshadows everything and forms 
the chief source of poignant tragedy by its uncertainty and 
hopelessness ; the Indian dramatist, no Jess pessimistic in his 
belief in the in exorable law of Karman, does not deny death, 
but, finding in it a condition of renewal, can hardly regard it in 
the same tragic light. 

It is, however, not correct to say that the Sanskrit drama 
entirely excludes tragedy. What it really does is that it excludes 
the direct representing of death as an incident, and insists on a 
happy ending. It recognises some form of tragedy in its pathetic 
sentiment and in the portrayal of separation in love ; and tragic 
interest strongly dominates some of the great plays. In the 
Mrcchakatiha and the Abhijnana-sakuntala, for instance, the 
tragedy does not indeed occur at the end, but it occurs in 
the middle ; and in the Uttara-rama-carita where the tragic 
interest prevails throughout, it occurs in an intensive form 
at the beginning of the play. The theorists appear to maintain 

1 It has, however, been pointed out (Sukthankar in JBRAS, 1925, p. 141) that the 
UrU'bhahga is not intended to be a tragedy in one act; it J s only the surviving intermediate 
act of a lengthy dramatised version of the Mohabliarata story; the Trivandrum dramas, 
therefore, form no exception to the general rule prohibiting a final catastrophe. 


that there is no tragedy in the mere fact of death, which 
in itself may be a disgusting, terrible or undignified spectacle 
and thus produce a hiatus in the aesthetic pleasure. Cruelty, 
murder, dark and violent passions, terror and ferocity 
need not have a premium. Undigested horrors are gloomy, 
depressing and unhealthy ; they are without dignity or decorum 
and indicate a morbid taste ; they do not awaken genuine pity 
or pathos. The Sanskrit drama generally keeps to the high 
road of life and never seeks the by-lanes of blood-and-thunder 
tragedy, or representation of loathsome and unnatural passions. 
Grim realism, in its view, does not exalt but debase the mind, 
and thereby cause a disturbance of the romantic setting. The 
theory holds that tragedy either precedes or follows the fact 
of death, which need not be visually represented, but the effect 
of which may be utilised for evoking the pathetic. It appears, 
therefore, that tragedy is not totally neglected, but that it is 
often unduly subordinated to the finer sentiments and is thus 
left comparatively undeveloped. The theory, however, misses 
the inconsolable hopelessness which a tragic ending inevitably 
brings ; and the very condition of happy ending makes much 
of the tragedy of the Sanskrit drama look unconvincing. 
In spite of the unmistakable tone of earnestness, the certainty 
of reunion necessarily presents the pathos of severance as a 
temporary and therefore needlessly exaggerated sentimentality. 

There are also certain other conditions and circumstances 
which seriously affect the growth of the Sanskrit drama, in the 
same way as they affect the growth of Sanskrit poetry. From 
the very beginning the drama, like poetry, appears to have 
moved in an aristocratic environment. It^is fostered in the same 
elevated and rarefied atmosphere^and^ isj^Pgcted to sbowjhe 
sam e cha racte r i sties , being regardedjjoth ^yj-h^ory and practice, 
as a subdivision of the Kavya, to the general aim^andTmethod 
of which it was more and more approximated. In the existing 
specimens there is nothing primitive ; we have neither the 
infancy of the drama nor the drama of infancy. The Sanskrit 


drama was never popular in the sense in which the Greek drama 
was. It is essentially a developed literary drama, inspired by the 
elegant poetic conventions of the highly cultured Sahrdaya, whose 
recognition was eagerly coveted ; and its dominant love-motif 
reflects the tastes and habits of the polished court-circle, as well 
as of the cultivated Nagaraka. The court-life in particular, 
which forms the theme of a number of plays on the amourettes 
of philandering princes, gives an opportunity of introducing 
song/ dance and music ; and the graceful manner and erotic 
sentiment become appropriate. In course of time, Poetics, Erotics 
and l|famaturgy conventionalised these tastes and habits ; and 
refined fancy and search after stylistic effect came in with the 
gradual preference of the subtle and the finical to the fervid 
and the spontaneous. The graces and artificialities of poetry 
become reflected in the drama, which soon loses its true 
accent of passion and fidelity to life. 

Although the theorists lay down an elaborate classification 

of the various categories of sentiments, it is yet curious to note 

that in practice the sentiments that are usually favoured are 

Hhe heroic and the erotic, with just an occasional suggestion 

of the marvellous. This accords well with the ideal and romantic 

character of the clramn, as well as with the fabulous and sungr- 

~YH ' "^ "^^ 

natural elements which are freely introduced. The comic, under 

the circumstances, hardly receives a proper treatment. The 
Prahasana and the Bhana profess to appeal to the comic senti- 
ment, but not in a superior form ; and the survival of an 
insignificant and limited number of these types of composition 
shows that they did not succeed very well. The other sentiments 
are also suggested but they hardly become prominent. Even 
in the heroic or lofty subjects, an erotic underplot is often 
introduced ; and in course of time the erotic overshadows every 
other sentiment, and becomes the exclusive and universally 
appealing theme. It is true that the love-plots, which predo- 
minate in the drama, are not allowed to degenerate into mere 
portrayals of the petty domestic difficulties of a polygamic systeip, 


but the dramatists often content themselves with the developing 
of the pretty erotic possibilities by a stereotyped sentimental 
scheme of love, jealousy, parting and reunion. The sciences 
of Poetics and Erotics take a keen delight ex accidenti in 
minutely analysing the infinite diversities of the amatory condition 
and in arranging into divisions and subdivisions, according to 
rank, character, circumstances and the like, all conceivable types 
of the hero, the heroine, their assistants and adjuncts, as well as 
the different shades of their feelings and gestures, which afford 
ample opportunities to the dramatic poet for utilising them 
for their exuberant lyrical stanzas. This technical analysis 
and the authority of the theorists lead to the establishment of 
fixed rules and rigid conventions, resulting in a unique growth 
of refined artificiality. 

There is indeed a great deal of scholastic formalism in the 
dramatic theory of sentiment, which had a prejudicial effect 
on the practice of the dramatist. The fixed category of eight 
or nine sentiments, the subordination to them of a large number 
of transitory emotions, the classification of determinants and 
consequents, the various devices to help the movement of the 
intrigue,: the normative fixing of dramatic junctures or stages 
in accorflance with the various emotional states, the arrangement 
of the dramatic modes (Vrttis) 1 into the elegant (Kausiki), the 
energetic (Sattvati), the violent (ArabhatI), and the verbal 
(Bharati), according as the sentiment is the erotic, the heroic, 
the marvellous* or only general, respectively all these, no 
doubt, indicate considerable power of empirical analysis arid 
subtlety, and properly emphasise the emotional effect of the 
drama ; but, generally speaking, the scholastic pedantry 
concerns itself more with accidents than with essentials, and the 
refinements of classification are often as needless 2 as they are 

1 Bbarata's description shows that the Vrttis do not refer to mere dramatic styles, but 
also to dramatic machinery and representation of incidents on the stage. 

* E.g., classification of Naty&tamkaras and Laksanas, the subdivisions of the 
Satndbyangag, etc* 


confusing. Although the prescriptions are not always logical but 
mostly represent generalisations from a limited number of 
plays, the influence of the theory on later practice is undoubted. 
As in the case of poetry, the result is not an unmixed good; and, 
after the creative epoch is over, we have greater artificiality and 
unreality in conception and expression. Apart from various limi- 
tations regarding form, theme, plot and character, one remarkable 
drawback of the dramatic tlicory, which had a practical effect on 
the development of the drama as drama, lies in the fact that it 
enforces concentration of the sentiment round the hero or the 
heroine, and does not permit its division with reference to the 
rival of the hero, who therefore becomes a far inferior character 
at every point. The theorists arc indeed aw, ire of the value of 
contrast. To preserve the usual romantic atmosphere the ideal 
heroes are often contrasted with vicious antagonists. But the 
possibility is not allowed of making an effective dramatic creation 
of an antagonist (like Havana, for instance), who often becomes 
a mere stupid and boastful villain. The Sanskrit drama is 
thereby deprived of one of the most important motifs of a real 
dramatic conflict. 

Ten chief (Rupaka) and ten to twenty minor (Uparupaka) 
types of the Sanskrit drama are recognised by the Sanskrit 
dramatic theory. 1 The classification rests chiefly on the elements 
of subject-matter (Vastu), hero (Nayaka) and sentiment (Rasa), 
but also secondarily on the number of acts, the dramatic modes 
and structure. The distinctions are interesting and are apparently 
based upon empirical analysis ; they show the variety of dramatic 
experiments in Sanskrit ; but since few old examples of most of the 
types exist, the discussion becomes purely academic. The generic 
term of the drama is Rupaka, which is explained as denoting any 
visible representation ; but of its ten forms, the highest is the 
Nataka which is taken as the norm. The heroic or erotic 

1 For an analysis of the various types and specimens, see D. R. Mankad, Types of Sans- 
krit Drama f cited above. 


Nataka, usually consisting of five to ten acts, is given a legendary 
subject-matter and a hero of elevated rank; but the practice 
shows that it is comparatively free from minor restrictions. The 
Prakarana is of the same length and similar structure, but it is a 
comedy of manners of a rank below royalty, with an invented 
subject and characters drawn from the middle class or even lower 
social grades, including the courtesan as the heroine and rogues 
of all kind. These two types, the Nataka and the Prakarana, are 
variations of the full-fledged drama ; but the details of the other 
types are not clear, and some of them are hardly represented in 
actual specimens. The Samavakara, in three acts, is the super- 
natural and heroic drama of gods and demons, involving fight, 
fraud and disturbance, but of this we have no early specimen. 
For a similar want of authentic specimens, it is difficult to dis- 
tinguish it from the Pima, usually in four acts, which is inade- 
quately described, but which is given a similar legendary theme 
with a" haughty hero, fight and sorcery, and the furious sentiment, 
its name being derived accordingly from a hypothetical root dim, 
' to wound.' The Vyayoga, as its name suggests, is also a mili- 
tary spectacle, with a legendary subject and a divine or human 
hero engaged in strife and battle ; but it is in one act, and the 
cause of disturbance is not a woman, the erotic and the 
comic sentiments being debarred. The type is old, and we have 
some specimens left, but they are of no great merit. We have, 
however, no living tradition of the Ihamrga, the % Vithi and the 
Utsrstanka. The first of these, usually extending to four acts 
but allowed to have only one, has a fanciful designation, suppos- 
ed to be derived from its partly legendary and partly invented 
theme of the pursuit (Iha) of a maiden, as attainable as the 
gazelle (Mrga), by a divine or human hero of a haughty character ; 
but in it there is only a show of conflict, actual fight being 
avoided by artifice. The other two agree in having only one act 
and in having ordinary heroes, but the erotic and the pathetic 
sentiments (with plenty of wailings of women !) respectively 
predominate. The obscure name Vlthl, c Garland/ is explained 



by its having a string of other subsidiary sentiments as well. 1 
The name Utsrstanka is variously explained, 2 but since one of the 
explanations 8 speaks of its having a kind of inverted action, it is 
suggested that it may have had a .tr.-igic ending, contrary to 
ordinary practice. The Bhana, on the other hand, is fortunate 
in having some old and late specimens. It is also a one-act 
play, erotic in character, but with only one hero-actor, namely 
the Vita ; it is carried on in monologue, the theme progressing 
by a chain of answers given by him to imaginary words ' spoken 
in the air/ and usually describing the love-adventures of the 
hero. 4 The comic is sometimes introduced in it ; and in this 
feature, as well as in the ribald character of the " hero/ 1 it has 
affinity with the next type, namely, the Prahasana, the one-act 
farce, the theme of which consists of the tricks and quarrels of 
low characters ; but the Sanskrit farce has little appeal because of 
its lack of invention and somewhat broad and coarse laughter. 

As the very name Uparupaka implies, the eighteen minor 
forms of the drama were evolved much later, but it is difficult 
to say at what period they carne into existence. Bharata does 
not deal with any Uparupaka, except the NatI (xviii. 106); and the 
first enumeration of seventeen varieties, without the designation of 
Uparupaka and without any discussion, occurs in the Alamkara 
section of the Agni-purana (c. 9th century). Abhinavagupta only 
incidentally mentions nine, and the commentary on the Daar&paha 

1 B'lt the Natya-darpona suggests : vokrokti-mdrgena gamandd rithlva mfhi. 

2 E.g., vtkraminonmuliha srstir jwitairi yasam ta uisritika tocantyah striyns t&bhir 
ahkitatrdd ulsrstikahkah from the Natya-darpana (ed. GOS, Haroda, 1920, p. 180). Or, ViSva- 
natha's alternative suggestion : natakadyantahpatyahka-paricclieriartham utsrstdhkah. 

3 utsrsta viloma-rupa srstir yatra, ViSvanatha in Sahitya-darpana. 

4 It is curious that in the Bhftna, Bharata forbids the Kabs'ikl mode, which gives scope to 
love and gallantry and which is eminently suitable to an erotic pUy ; but the element of Lasya 
is allowel,of which, however, little trace remains in the existing specimens, but which 
is probably a survival in theory of what probably was a feature in practice. D. R. Mankad 
(op. cit.) puts forward the attractive, but doubtful, theory that the one-act monologue play, 
the Bhana, was the first dramatic type to evolve ; but in spite of its seemingly loose dramatic 
technique, it is too artificial in device to be primitive, or even purely popular in origin, 

the existing specimens are late and have a distinctly literary form. 


only seven in the same way. Some of the minor forms are doubt- 
less variations or refinements on the original Rupaka varieties, but 
there is some substance in the contention 1 that, as the Natyacame 
to be distinguished from the Nrtya, the Rupaka was mainly based 
onjhejjla^a and the Uparupaka on the Nrtya. It is highly 
possible that while the rhythmic dance was incorporating 

histrionics into itself, it was at the same time developing the 
minor operatic forms, in which dance and music originally 

predominated, but which gradually modelled itself on the regular 
drama. The Natika, for instance, is the lesser heroic and erotic 
Nataka, just au the Prakaranika, admitted by some, is a lesser 
Prakarana; but in both these there are opportunities of introdu- 
cing song, dance and music. The Sattaka is only a variation of 
the Natika in having Prakrit as the medium of expression ; 
while the Trotaka, but for the musical element, is hardly dis- 
tinguishable in itself from the Nataka. The remaining forms 
have no representative in early literature and need not be enu- 
merated here ; they show rather the character of pantomime, 
with song, dance and music, than of serious drama. Whatever 
scholastic value these classifications may possess, it is not of 
much significance in the historical development of the drama, 
for most of the varieties remain unrepresented in actual practice. 
The earlier drama does not appear to subscribe fully to the rigidity 
of the prescribed forms, and it is only in a general way that we 
can really fit the definitions to the extant specimens. 

In the theoretical works, everything is acholastically classified 
and neatly catalogued ; forms of the drama, types of heroes and 
heroines, their feelings, qualities, gestures, costumes, make-up, 
situations, dialects, modes of address and manner of acting. All 
this perhaps gives the impresssion of a theatre of living mario- 
nettes. But in practice, the histrionic talent succeeds in infusing 

1 Mankad in the work cit^d. The term Upartipaka is very late, the earliar designations 
being Nrtyaprakara and Geyarupaka. On the technical difference between Rupaka and 
Upapiipaka, see Hernacandra, Kavyanusasana, ed. NSP, Comin. p. 329 f. 


blood into the puppets and translating dry formulas into lively 
forms of beauty, while poetic genius overcomes learned scholas- 
ticism and creates a drama from the conflict of types and 




Fifty years ago Asvaghosa was nothing more than a name, 
but to-day all his important works have been published, and he 
is recognised as the first great Kavya-poet and precursor of 
Kalidfisa. Very little however, is known of his personal history 
except what is vouchsafed by legends * and what can be gathered 
from his works themselves. The colophons to his Kfivyas agree in 
describing him as a Bhiksu or Buddhist monk of Saketa (Ayodhya) 
and as the son of Suvarnaksi, * of golden eyes/ which was the name 
of his mother. They also add the style of Acarya and Bhadanta, 
as well as of Mahakavi and Mahavadin. As an easterner, 
Asvaghosa's admiration of the Ramayana 2 is explicable, while it 
is probable that he belonged to some such Buddhist school of 
eastern origin as the Mahasanghika or the Bahusrutika. 8 He 
makes little display of purely scholastic knowledge ; but the 
evidence of his works makes it clear that he had a considerable 
mastery over the technical literature which a Sanskrit poet was 
expected to possess, and a much wider acquaintance than most 
other Buddhist writers of the various branches of Brahmanical 
learning. His Sanskrit is not strictly faultless, but his easy 
command over it is undoubtedly not inferior to that of most 

1 A legendaiy biography of Asvaghosa was translated into Chinese hy Kumrajlvc 
between 401 and 409 A.D. ; extracts from it in W. Wassiljew, Der Buddhismus, St. Petersburg 
I860, p. iJ81 f. Cf. J^ t 1908, 11, p. 65 for Chinese authorities on the Asvaghoa legend. 

2 On the poet's indebtedness to the liamayana, which Cowell and Johnston deal witl 
in the introductions to their respective editions of the Buddha-carita, see also A. Gawronski 
Studies about the Sanskrit-Buddhist Lit., Krakow, 1'JIU, ip, 27-40; C. W. Gurner in JASB 
XX11, IU'27, p. 347 f ; Wmteruitz, HJL, 1, p. 5J'2 f. 

3 See Johnston, op. cit. 9 pt. II, introd., p. xxxi f. 


Sanskrit writers. Everywhere great respect is shown toBrahma- 
nical ideas and institutions, and it is not improbable that he was 
born a Brahman and given a Brahman's education before he 
went over to Buddhism. The obvious interest he shows in the 
theme of conversion in at least two of his works and the zeal 
which he evinces for his faith perhaps fortify this presumption. 
The Chinese tradition makes l Asvaghosa a contemporary and 
spiritual counsellor of king Kaniska. The poet did not probably 
live later than the king, and it would not be wrong to put the 
lower limit of his date at 100 A.D. But 'in associating with 
Asvaghosa the Sarvastivadin Vibhasa commentary on the 
Abhidharma, or in naming the Vibhasa scholar Parsva or his 
pupil Punyayasas as having converted Asvaghosa, the tradition, 
which cannot be traced further than the end of the 4th century 
and which shows more amiable than historical imagination, is 
perhaps actuated by the motive of exalting the authority of this 
school ; for neither the date of the commentary is certain, nor can 
the special doctrines of the Sarvastivadins be definitely traced in 
the unquestioned works of Asvaghosa. That he was a follower 
of Hinayana and took his stand on earlier dogmatism admits of 
little doubt, but he was less of a scholastic philosopher than an 
earnest believer, and his emphasis on personal love and devotion 
to the Buddha perhaps prepared the way for Mahayana Bhakti, 
of which he is enumerated as one of the patriarchs. It is not 
necessary for us to linger over the question of his scholarship or 
religion ; 2 but it should be noted that, while his wide scholarship 
informs his poems with a richer content, it seldom degenerates 
into mere pedantry, and the sincerity of his religious convictions 

1 On Chinese and other Buddhist sources concerning As"vaghoa, see S. Levi in JA, 
1892, p. 201f ; 1896, II, p. 444 f ; 1908, II, p. 67 f ; 1928, II, p. 193 ; M. Anesaki in ERE, IT, 
1909, p. 159 f and reff. ; T. Suzuki in the work cited below. On Kaniska 's date, see Winternitz, 
HJL, II, App. V, pp. 611-14 for a summary of different views. 

2 The question is discussed by Johnston in his introduction. Some doctrines 
peculiar to Mabayana have been traced iu As*vaghosa's genuine works, but his date is too 
early for anything other than primitive Mabayana. The recommendation of Yogacara in 
Saundar&nanda XIV. 18 and XX. 68 need not refer to the YogScara school, but perhaps alludes 
only to the practice of Yoga in general. 


imparts life and enthusiasm to his impassioned utterances, and/ 
redeems them from being mere dogmatic tredtises or literary 

To later Buddhism A6vaghosa is a figure of romance, and 
the Chinese and Tibetan translations of Sanskrit works, made in 
later times, ascribe to him a number of religious or philosophical 
writings, some of which belong to developed Mahayana. 1 In the 
absence of Sanskrit originals, it is impossible to decide Agva- 
ghosa's authorship; but since they have not much literary 
pretensions it is not necessary for us to discuss the question. 
Among these doubtful works, the Mahayana-raddhotpada-astra 9 
which attempts a synthesis of Vijnana-vada and Madhyamika 
doctrines, has assumed importance from its being translated into 
English, 2 under the title ' Asvaghosa's Discourse on the Awaken- 
ing of Faith/ from the second Chinese version made about 700 
A.D. ; but the internal evidence of full-grown Mahayana doctrine 
in the work itself puts Asvaghosa's authorship out of the ques- 
tion. Another work, entitled Vajrasucl 'the Diamond-needle', 8 a 
clever polemic on Brahmanical caste, has also been published, 
but it is not mentioned among Asvaghosa's works by the Chinese 
pilgrim Yi-tsing (7th century) nor by the Bstan-hgyur, and it 
shows little of Asvaghosa's style or mentality ; the Chinese 
translation, which $fp made between 973 and 981 A.D., perhaps 
rightly ascribes it TO Dharmakirti. Of greater interest is the 
Gandl-stotra-gatlia, a small poem of twenty-nine stanzas, com- 
posed mostly in the Sragdhara, metre, the Sanskrit text of which 
has been restored 4 and edited. It is in praise of the Gandl, the 

1 A full list is given by F. W. Thomas in Kvs, introd., p. 26 f , 

2 by T. Suzuki, Chicago 1900. Takakusu states that the earher catalogue of Chinese 
texts omits the name of A6vaghosa as the author #f this work. The question of several 
As"vaghosas is discussed by Suzuki and Anesaki, cited above. On this work see Winternitz, 
H/L,It, pp. 36162andreff. 

3 ed. and trs by Weber, Uber die Vajrasuci, in Abhandl. d. Berliner Akad., 1859, 
pp. 205-64, where the problem of authorship is discussed. 

4 by A. Von Stael-Holateiu, in Bibl. Buddb., no. XV, St. Petersburg 1913, and 
re-edited by E. H. Johnston in I A, 1933, pp. 61-70, where the authorship of Afoaghosa has been 
questioned. Of. F. W. Thomas in JRAS, 1914, p. 752 f. 


Buddhist monastery gong, consisting of a long symmetrical piece 
of wood, and of the religious message which its sound is supposed 
to carry when beaten with a short wooden club. The poem is 
marked by some metrical skill, but one of its stanzes (st. 20) 
shows that it was composed in Kashmir at a much later time. 1 

The next apocryphal work is the Siitralamkara, 2 over the 
authorship of which there has been a great deal of controversy. 8 
The Chinese translation of the work, made by KumarajTva about 
405 A.D. assigns it to Avaghosa ; but fragments of the same 
work in Sanskrit were discovered in Central Asia and identified 
by H. Liiders, 4 who maintains that the author was Kumaralata, 
probably a junior contemporary of A6vaghosa, and that the work 
bore in Sanskrit the title of Kalpana-manditika or Kalpana- 
lamkrtikd. As the name indicates, it is a collection of moral tales 
and legends, told after the manner of the Jatakas and Avadanas in 
prose and verse, but in the style of the ornate Kavya. Some of 
the stories, such as those of Dirghayus and Sibi, are old, but 
others clearly inculcate Buddha-bhakti in the spirit of the Maha- 
yana. The work illustrates the ability to turn the tale into an 
instrument of Buddhist propaganda, but it also displays wide 
culture, mentions the two Indian Epics, the Samkhya and Vaise- 
sika systems, the Jaina doctrines and the law-book of Manu, and 
achieves considerable literary distinction. It is unfortunate that 
the Sanskrit text exists only in fragments. Yuan Ghwang 
informs us that Kumaralata was the founder of the Sautrantika 
school and came from Taxila ; it is not surprising, therefore, that 

1 A work, entitled Tridarnja-mala, is ascribed to Asvaghosa in JBORS, XXTV, 1938, 
pp, 157-fiO, b-it JoLnston, ibid, XXV, 1939, p. 11 f, disputes it 

2 Translated into French on the Chinese version of Kumara;iva, by Ed. Huber, Paris 1908. 

3 For references Fee Tormmatsu in JA t 1931, IT, p. 135 f. Also L. de la Valise Pouasin, 
VijflaptimatrasiddJn, pp. 221-24. 

4 Bruchstiicke der Kalpanamanditiha des Kumaralata in Kongl Treuss Turfan- 
Expeditiomn,Kleinere Sanskrit-Texte II, Leipzig 1926. The fragments are valuable, but 
unfortunately they are too few in number, and the work is still to be judged on the basis of the 
Chinese version. Some scholars hold that Avaghosa waa the real author, and Kumaralata 
only refashioned the work ; but it is now generally agreed that A6vagho?a had nothing to do 
with its composition. 


t he work pays respect to the Sarvastivadins, from whom the 
Sautrantikas originated, or that some of its stories can be traced 
in the works of the school. In two stories (nos. 14 and 31), 
Kaniska appears as a king who has already passed away ; the 
work, apparently written some time after Kaniska's death, 
cannot, therefore, be dated earlier than the 2nd century A.D. 1 

The three works, which are known for certain to be Asva- 
ghosa's, are : the Bnddha-carita, the Saundarananda and the 
Sariputra-prakarana ; and his fame as a great Sanskrit poet rests 
entirely on these. The first, in its original form of twenty-eight 
cantos, known to Yi-tsing and to the Chinese and Tibetan versions, 
is a complete Mahakavya on the life of the Buddha, which begins 
with his birth and closes with an account of the war over the 
relics, the first Council, and the reign of A^oka. In Sanskrit 2 
only cantos two to thirteen exist in their entirety, together with 
about three quarters of the first and the first quarter ot the four- 
teenth (up to st. 31), carrying the narrative down to the Buddha's 
temptation, defeat of Mara and his enlightenment. It is the 
work of a real poet who, actuated by intense devotion to the 
Buddha and the truth ol! his doctrine, has studied the scripture 
and is careful to use the authoritative sources open to him, but 
who has no special inclination to the marvellous and the mira- 
culous, and reduces the earlier extravagant and chaotic legends to 
the measure and form of the Kfivya. Asvaghosa does not depart in 

1 If, however, Harivarman, a pupil of Kumaralata, was a contemporary of Vasubandhu, 
then Kumaralata could not have been a younger contemporary of Asvaghosa, but should be 
dated not earlier than the 3rd century A D. 

2 Ed. E. B. Cowell, Oxford 1893, containing four alditional cantos by Arartananda, a 
Nepaleae Pandit of the 19th century, win records at the end that he wrote the supplement in 
1830 A. D., because he could not find a complete manuscript of the te*t. Also trs. into 
English by Cowell in SBE, vol. 49; into German by C. Cappeller, .lena 1922; into Italian by 
C Fonnichi, Bari 1912. Re-edited more critically, and translated into English, by E. H 
Johnston in 2 vols., Calcutt t 1936 (Panjab Ooiv. Orient. Publ. Nos. 31-32), which may be 
consulted for bibliography of other Indian editions and for critical and exegetical contributions 
to the subject by various scholars. Johnston remarks : "The textual tradition of the extant 
portion is bad, and a sound edition is only made possible by comparison with the Tibetan and 
Chinese translations." The Tibetan text, with German translation, under the title Da* Ltben 
des Buddha von Ahagliosa, is given by F. Weller, in two parts, Leipzig 1926, 1928, 



essentials from the received tradition, but he succeeds in infusing 
into his well conceived and vivid narrative the depth of his religious 
feeling and the spontaneity of his poetic emotion. Not unworthily 
praised is the skilful picture he draws of the young prince 
Sarvarthasiddhi's journey through the city, of the throng of fair 
women who hasten to watch him pass by, of the hateful spectacle 
of disease, old age and death which he encounters on the way, of 
the womanly blandishments and the political arguments of 
wisdom set forth by the family priest, which seek to divert the 
prince's mind from brooding thoughts of resignation, as well as 
of the famous night-scene of sleeping women, who in their 
moment of unconsciousness present all the loathsome signs of 
human misery and thereby hasten the flight of the prince from 
the palace. The requirement of a battle-scene in the Kavya is 
fulfilled by the pleasing variation of the spirited description of the 
Buddha's fight with Mara and his hosts. 1 The work is, there- 
fore, not a bare recital of incident, nor is it a dry and dogmatic 
exposition of Buddhist doctrine, but the Buddha-legend is con- 
ceived in the spirit of the Kavya in respect of narrative, diction 
and imagery, and the poet's flame of faith makes the best lines of 
the poem quiver with the needed glow. 

The Saundarananda 2 , all the eighteen cantos of which are 
preserved in Sanskrit, is connected also with the story of the 
Buddha; but its actual theme is the conversion of his reluctant 
half-brother, Nanda, nicknamed Sundara for his handsome 
appearance. Nothing more than a mention of the fact of 

1 Parallelisms between As*vaghosa and Kalid&sa in some of these passages, not only in 
ideas but also in diction and imagery, have been set forth in detail in Nandargikar's introduc- 
tion to bis edition of Raghu-varnsa (3rd ed,, Bombay 1897, pp. 163-96) ; but the argument based 
thereon that Kalidasa was earlier and As*vaghosa imitated him has not found general support 
and is very unlikely. 

2 Discovered and edited by Haraprasad Shastri, Bibl. Ind., Calcutta 1910; critically 
re-edited and translated into English by E. H Johnston, Oxford Univ. Press, 1928, 1932 
which gives full bibliography. In spite of the richer content and wider interest of the 
Buddha-carita, Johnston is of opinion that " the handling of the Saundarananda is altogether 
more mature and assured than that of the Buddha-carita " ; Contra Winternitz, ffIL, IJ, 
p. 262 note, 


conversion is found in the Maharayga and the Nidana-katha ; 

and the subject is perhaps too slender to support an extensive 

poem. But the opportunity is taken, in the earlier part of the 

poem, to expand the legend with the proper Kavya-embellish- 

ments, and in the latter part, to give expression at length to the 

poet's religious ideas and convictions. The first six cantos, 

therefore, describe the mythical foundation of Kapilavastu, its 

king, the birth of the Buddha and Nanda, the lutter's love for 

his wife Sundarl, the forcible conversion of Nanda to the life of 

a monk, which he intensely dislikes, his conflict of feelings, and 

Sundari's lament for her lost husband. All this is pictured 

skilfully in the manner and diction of the Kavya, and possesses 

considerable narrative interest ; but in the rest of the poem 

there is not much of description or narration except the account 

of Nanda's ascent to heaven and yearning for Apsarases. Entire 

space is, therefore, devoted to an impassioned exposition of the 

evils of pride and lust, the vanities of the world and the joys of 

enlightenment. Here, more than in the imaginative presenta- 

tion of the Buddha-legend, Asvaghosa the preacher, no doubt, 

gets the upper hand of Asvaghosa the poet ; but in this very 

conflict between his poetic temperament and religious passion, 

which finds delight in all that is delightful and yet discards it 

as empty and unsatisfying, lies the secret of the spontaneity and 

forcefulness which forms the real appeal of his. poetry. It 

is not merely the zeal of the convert but the conviction of the 

importance of what he has to say that often makes him scorn 

mere verbal polish and learned ostentation and speak with an 

overmastering directness, the very truth and enthusiasm of which 

sharpen his gift of pointed phrasing, balance his sentences and 

add a new zest to his emotional earnestness. 

In this respect Asvaghosa's poetry lacks the technical finish 
and subtlety of the later Kavya ; but it possesses freshness of 
feeling in the simplicity and nobility born of passionate faith. 
Asvaghosa is fully conversant with the Brahman ical atid Buddhi- 
stic learning of his day, while his metrical skill and use of 


rhetorical ornaments betoken his familiarity with the poetic art 1 ; 
but the inherent contrast between the poet and the artist, on the 
one handj and the scholar and the preacher, on the other, often 
results in strange inequalities of matter and manner. At the 
conclusion of his poems, Agvaghosa declares that he is writing 
for a larger public, and not merely for a learned audience, for 
the attainment of peace and not for the display of skill in the 
Kavya. The question, therefore, whether he belongs to this 
or that school of thought, or whether he employs this or that 
metre or ornament in his poems is immaterial ; what is material 
to recognise is that religion is not his theme, but religious 
emotion, which supplies the necessary impetus and evolves its 
own form of expression without making a fetish of mere rhetoric 
or mere dogma. ASvagbosa is a poet by nature, a highly 
cultivated man by training, and a deeply religious devotee by 
conviction. This unique combination is often real and vital 
enough to lift his poetry from the dead level of the commonplace 
and the conventional, and impart to it a genuine emotional tone 
which is rare in later poetry. What is most pleasing in his 
work to modern taste is his power of combining a sense of reality 
and poetry with the skill of art and scholarship. His narra- 
tive, therefore^ is never dull, his choice of incident and arrange- 
ment never incoherent, his diction seldom laboured and his 
expression rarely devoid of elegant simplicity. If he is not a 
finished artist in the sense in which his successors are, nor even 
a great poet capable of great things, his poetic inspiration is 
genuine, and he never speaks in a tiresome falsetto. If his poetry 
has not the stress and discipline of chiselled beauty, it has the 
pliability and promise of unrefined form ; it has the sincerity and 
the throb ; if not the perfectly ordered harmony, of full-grown music. 
Agvaghosa's versatility is indicated by his third work, 2 a 
Prakaraija or nine-act drama, entitled 8ariputra-prakarana (or 

1 On Asvagboa as scholar and artist, see Johnston, op. eft., pt. II, pp- xliv-lxxix. 
* H. Liiders, D<ia Sftriputraprakaran>, ein Drama .des A6vagho^, in Sitzungsberichtc 
d Berliner Akad., 1911, p. 388 f. 


3aradvatiputra), of which only fragments on palm leaf were 
discovered in Central Asia and a few passages restored by 
Liiders. Fortunately the colophon exists, and the question of 
authorship and name of the work is beyond doubt. Its theme 
is, again, an act of conversion connected with the Buddha, 
namely, that of Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, but the fragments 
give us little idea of the way in which the story, well-known 
from such older sources as the Mahavagya, was handled, in 
having a Prakrit-speaking Vidusaka as one of the characters and 
in conforming to the requirements regarding division into acts, 
use of literary Prakrits, 1 ornamental metrical excursions 2 and other 
details, the fragments, however, afford clear testimony that 
the method and technique of a fairly developed Sanskrit 
drama 3 were already established in the 1st or 2nd century A.D. 
This presumption is confirmed a-lso by the fragments of two 
other , plays, 4 which were discovered with the remains of 
tSariputra-prakarana, but which bear no testimony of authorship and 
may or may not have been written by ^Tsvaghosa. The first has 
for its theme a Buddhist allegory, of which the details are not 
clear, although a whole leaf of the manuscript has been recovered. 
It has Kirti 'Fame/ Dhrti ' Firmness' and Buddhi ' Wisdom ' 
as characters, and apparently foreshadows such allegorical plays 
as Krsnamisra's Prabodha-candrodaya of a much later time. 
The Buddha himself appears, as in the drama described above, 
and all the characters, so far as the fragments go, speak 
Sanskrit. In having real, as well as allegorical, figures, it 

1 On the Prakrits employed in this and the following plays, see Liiders in the works 
cited, and Keith, HSL, pp. 85-89. The Prakrit ia literary and shows the influence of 

3 The metres employed (besides Sloka) are the usual classical ones ; Arya, Upajati, Salim, 
VamSastbavila, Vaaantatilaka, Malinl, Sikharinl, Harinf, Suvadanft, Sardulavikrujita and 

8 Contra Sten Konow, Indische Drama, Berlin and Leipzig 1920, p. 50, but the 
grounds are weak. 

4 H. Liiders, Bruchstticke buddhisHscher Dramen, Kongl. Preuss. Turfan-Expen- 
tionen, Kleinere Sanskrit-Texte I, Berlin 1911, The questiot of authorship is undecided ; 
see Johnston, op. cit., pp. xx-xxii. 


resembles more the Caitanya-candrodaya of Kavikarnapura in 
its manner of treatment, but no definite conclusion is possible. 
The other play appears to have been al&o intended for religious 
edification, but from what remains of it we may infer that it 
was a social drama of middle class life of the type of the 
MTCchakatika. It concerns a young voluptuary, called simply 
the Nayaka and probably named Somadatta, and his mistress 
Magadhavati, apparently a courtesan converted to Buddhism. 
There are also a Prince (Bhattidalaka), an ever-hungry Vidusaka, 
named Kaumudagandha, a maid-servant, and a Dusta or Rogue. 
The fragments are few in number and not consecutive, and it 
is difficult to make out the story. But in view of the uncertainty 
of the origin and antiquity of the Sanskrit Drama, these 
specimens, which belong probably to the same age, are highly 
interesting ; for they reveal the drama in its first appearance in a 
relatively perfected form, and clearly indicate that its origin 
should antedate the Christian era. 

From the literary point of view, A^vaghosa's achievement, 
we have seen, is marked not so much by crudity and primitive- 
ness as by simplicity and moderation in language and style; 
it is artistic but not in the extravagant manner of the later 
Kavya. Its matter and poetic quality, therefore, are more 
appealing than its manner and artistic effect. This is certainly 
different from the later taste and standard of verse-making ; and 
it is not surprising that with the exception of Kalidasa, who is 
nearer his time, Agvaghosa exercised little influence on later 
Sanskrit poets, 1 although the exception itself is a sure indication 
of the essential quality of his literary effort. Despite their 
religious zeal, the literary works of Asvaghosa could not have 
been approved whole-heartedly also by the learned monks for his 
freedom of views and leaning towards Brahmanical learning. 

1 The only quotation from ASveghosa in Alarpkara literature occur? in 

nw5i td. Qaekwad's 0. 8., p. 18 (**Buddha>c. viii. 25), For other 
see Johnston, op. cit., pp. Ixxix-lxxx, abd F. W. Thomas* Kts, intrpd., p. 29. 


With the Buddhist writers of the Kavya, on the other hand, 
A^vaghosa was deservedly popular ; and some of their works were 
modelled so closely on those of A^vaghosa that they were 
indiscriminately assigned to him in later times, with the result 
that the authors themselves came to be identified with him. 1 

Of the successors of Asvaghosa, who are to be taken into 
account, not because they were Buddhists but because their 
works possess a wider literary appeal, we have already spoken of 
Kumaralata, one of whose works is ascribed by the Chinese tradi- 
tion to Asvaghosa himself. Some of the poems 2 of Matrceta 
have likewise .been attributed to Avaghosa by the Tibetan 
tradition, one of whose famous chroniclers, Taranatba being of 
opinion that Matrceta is another name for Asvaghosa ! Of the 
twelve works ascribed to Matrceta in Tibetan and one in Chinese, 
most of which are in the nature of Stotras and some belonging 
distinctly to Mahayana, only fragments of $atapancaatka-stotra* 
and Catuhhtaka-stotraf or panegyric of one hundred and fifty 
and four hundred stanzas respectively, are recovered in Sanskrit. 
Botlr these works are simple devotional poems in Slokas. T hey are 
praised by Yi-tsing, to whom Matrceta is already a famous poet, 
and who himself is said to have translated the first work into 
Chinese ; but they do not appear to possess much literary merit. 
That Matrceta, in spite of his name occurring distinctly in 
Yi-tsing and in the inscriptions, was confused with Asvaghosa, 
may have been due to the fact that he belonged to the same school 
and was probably a contemporary. A Tibetan version of another 

1 Concerning the identifications, see P. W. Thomas in Album Kern, Leiden 1903, 
pp. 405-08 and IA t 1903, pp 345-60; also see ERE, VIII (1915), p. 495f. 

2 For a list of the works see F. W, Thomas, Kvs, introd., pp. 26-28. 

3 Fragments published by S. Le*vi in JA, XVI, 1910, pp. 438-56 and L. de la Valtee 
Pousain in JRAS, 1911, pp. 769-77. Siegiing is reported to have reconstructed about two-thirds 
of the Sanskrit text; see Winternitz, H/L, II, p. 271 note. Both these works exist in Tibetan 
and Chinese. 

4 The work is called Varnan&rha-varnana in the Tibetan version and Central Asian 
fragments, For a translation of this text from Tibetan, see F, W. Thomas in I A f XXVIV, 
1905 f pp. 145463. 


work, called Maharaja-kanika-lekha, in eighty-five stanzas, 
ascribed to Matrcitra, has been translated into English by P. W. 
Thomas, 1 who is probably right in thinking that Matrcitra is 
identical with Matrceta, and that king Kanika 'of the Kusa 
dynasty addressed in this epistle of religious admonition is no 
other than the Kusana king Kaniska. 2 

Of greater interest than the rather meagre works of 
Matrceta is the Jataka-mala* of Arya Sura, which consists of 
a free but elegant Sanskrit rendering, in prose and verse, of 
thirty-four 4 selected legends from the Pali Jdtakas and the 
^Gariyii-pitaka, illustrating the Paramitas or perfections of a 
Bodhisattva. Although sometimes marked by exaggeration, the 
tales are edifying. They were apparently composed for supply- 
ing ready illustrations to religious discourses, but the interest is 
more than religious. The work reveals a close study of 
A^vaghosi's manner, and is inspired by the same idea of convey- 
ing in polished, but not too highly artificial, diction the noble 
doctrine of universal compassion ; and it is not surprising, there- 
fore, that the author should be identified sometimes with Asva- 
ghosa. The attractive form in which the old stories are retold in 
the Kavya-style slows that it was meant for a wider but cultivated 
audience, and we have Yi-tsing's testimony, confirmed by the 
existence of Chinese and Tibetan translations, that the work was 
at one time popular in India and outside. Arya Sura's date is 
unknown, but as another work of his 5 was translated into 

1 7/1, XXII, 1903, p. 345 f. The epistle ia supposed to be Matrcitra's reply declining 
king Kamka's invitation to bis court. The vogue of such epistolary exhortation ia borne out 
by Nagarjuna's Suhfllekha and Candragomin's Sisya-lehha. 

2 But contra 8. C. Vidyabhugan iu JASB, 1910, p. 477 f. 

3 Ed. H. Kern in Harvard 0. S., 1801; trs. J S. Speyer in Sacred Books of the 
Buddhists, Oxford University Press, 1895. The title is a generic term, for various poets have 
written ' garlands * of Jatakas. 

4 The Chinese version contains only 14 stories. 

For a list of other works ascribed to Xrya Sura by Chinese and Tibetan traditions, 
see F. W. Thomas, Kvs, introd., p. 26 f. 


Chinese in 434 AD., he cannot be dated later than the 4th 
century A.D. 1 


Closely connected with the Jataka-mala, which is also 
entitled Bodhisattvavadana-mala, are the works belonging to 
what is called the Avadana literature ; for the Jataka is nothing 
more than an Avadana (Pali Apadana) or tale of great deed, the 
hero of which is the Bodhisattva himself. Their matter some- 
times coincides, and actual Jataka stories are contained in the 
Avadana works. 2 The absorbing theme of the Avadanas being 
the illustration of the fruit of man's action, they have a moral 
end in view, but the rigour of the Karman doctrine is palliated 
by a frank belief in the efficacy of personal devotion to the 
Buddha or his followers. The tales are sometimes put, as in the 
Jataka, in the form of narration by the Buddha himself, of a past, 
present or future incident ; and moral exhortations, miracles and 
exaggerations come in as a matter of course. As literary produc- 
tions they are hardly commendable, but their historical interest 
is considerable as affording illustration of a peculiar type of 
story-telling in Sanskrit. 

The oldest of these collections is perhaps the Avadana- 
tataka,* which is well known from some of its interesting 
narratives, but its literary merit is not high. The tales are 
arranged schematically, but not on a well conceived plan, 1 into 

1 We do not take here into account the works of other and later Buddhist writeis, 
such as the Catuh-tatalta of Sryadeya, the Suhrllekha of Nagarjuna, the Sisya-lekha and 
Lokananda-nataka of Candragoroin, or the Bodhicaryavat&ra of Santideva, for they contri- 
bute more to doctrine or philosophy than to literature. 

2 See Serge d'Oldenberg in JRAS, 1898, p. 304; and for Avadaoa literature in 
general, see L. Feer's series of articles in JA between 1578 and 1884, and introd. to his 
translation of the Avadana-tataka. 

3 Ed. J. 8. Speyer, BibJ. Buddh., St. Petersburg 1902-09; trs. into French by 
L. Peer in Ann ale 9 du Must* Guimet, Paris 1891. An earlier but lost Asok&vadana was 
composed, according to Przyluski, by a Mathurft monk about two centuries before Ktniska. 



ten decades, each dealing with a certain, subject, and are told 
with set formulas, phrases and situations. The first four decades 
deal with stories of pious deeds by which one can become a 
Buddha, and include prophecies of the advent of the Buddhas ; 
while the fifth, speaking of the world of souls in torments, 
narrates the causes of their suffering with a tale and a lesson in 
morality. The next decade relates stories of men and animals 


reborn as gods, while the last four decades are concerned with 
deeds which qualify persons to become Arhats. The legends 
are often prolix, and there is more of didactic than literary 
motive in the narration. The date of the work is uncertain, but 
while the mention of the Dlnara as a current coin (Roman 
Denarius) is supposed to indicate 100 A.D. as the upper limit, 
the lower limit is supplied more convincingly by its translation 
into Chinese in the first half of the 3rd century. 

Hardly more interesting from the literary point of view is 
the Divyavadana, 1 the date of which is also uncertain, but 
which, making extensive use of Kumaralata's work, cannot be 
earlier than the 1st century A.D. It is substantially a Hinayfma 
text, but Mahayana material has been traced in it. Being 
probably a compilation of polygenotis origin, extending over 
different periods of time, its matter and manner are unequal. 
The prose is frequently interrupted by Gathas and pieces of 
ornate stanzas, but this is a feature which is shown by other 
works of this type. The language is reasonably correct and 
simple ; but debased Sanskrit, marked by Prakritisms, is not 
absent, and the diction is sometimes laboured and ornamental. 
We have here some really interesting and valuable narratives, 
specially the cycle of A^oka legends, but they are scarcely well 
told ; the arrangement is haphazard and chaotic ; and the work 
as a whole possesses little literary distinction. 2 

1 Ed. B. B. Cowell and R. A. NeifiT Cambridge 1886. Almost all the stories Lave 
been traced to other works. 

1 For other collections of unpublished Avadftnts, see- Speyer and Peer, in the work* 
aitcd, tnd Winternitz, H/L, II, pp. 290-92, 


To the first century of the Christian era probably nlso 
belongs some parts of the Mahavastu, 1 the ' Book of Great 
Events,' even if its substantial nucleus probably took shape in 
an earlier period. Although its subject is Vinaya, it contains, 
besides the life-story of the Buddha, some narratives of the 
Jataka and Avadana type ; but in its jumbling of confused and 
disconnected matter and for its hardly attractive style, it has small 
literary, compared with its historical, interest. The same remark 
applies more or less to the Lalita-vistara, 2 the detailed account 
of the ' sport ' of the Buddha, the date of which is unknown 
and origin diverse. Whatever may be its value as a biography 
of the Buddha, its style is not unlike that of the Puranas. The 
narrative in 'simple but undistinguished Sanskrit prose is often 
interrupted by long metrical passages in mixed Sanskrit, and 
its literary pretensions are not of a high order. 


The Buddhist anecdotal literature perhaps reflects an aspect 
of the literary, us well as popular, taste of the time, which liked 
the telling of tales in a simple and unadorned, but distinctly 
elegant, manner ; for the origin of the Sanskrit Pancatanlra and 
the Prakrit Brhatkatha, which represent story-telling from 
another point of view, is perhaps synchronous, although 
the various extant versions of the two works belong to a much 
later period. The Avadana, the didactic beast-fable and the 
popular tale are indeed not synonymous. While the Avadana, 
closely related to the Jataka, is clearly distinguishable as a 
Buddhist gest, which has a definite religious significance, the 
other two species are purely secular in object and character. 
The method of story-telling is also different ; for in the Jataka 
or Avadana, we have ..generally the application of a past legend 

1 Ed. E. Smart, 8 vols, Paris 1882-97, \vitb detailed summary of contents and Dotes. 

2 Ed. Rajendralal Mitra, Bibl. lad,, Calcutta 1877 ; English Irs. by same (up to cb, 
xv), Bibl. Ind. 1881-86; re-edited by 8. Lefmunn, Halle 1902, 1S08; complete French trs 

by P. B. Fouoa-u i \ Annales da Muste Guimef, Paris 1884, 1892. 


to a tale of to-day. In the Jataka the Bodhisattva tells a tale 
of his past experience, but it is not narrated in the first person ; 
the device of first-hand narrative, as well as of enclosing a tale^ 
is a feature which characterises the classical method. The 
Sanskrit poetic theory ignores the Jataka and Avadana, presum- 
ably because they have a religious objective and seldom rises 
to the level of art, but it does not also clearly define and discri- 
minate between the fable and the tale. The elaborate attempt 
to distinguish between the Katha and the Akhyayika, 1 as the 
invented story and the traditional legend respectively, is more 
or less academic, and has hardly any application to the present 
case. Some of the stories of the Pancatantra are indeed called 
Kathas, but one of the versions of the entire work is styled 
Tantrakhyayika, while Guijadhya's work is designated as the 
Great Katha. Possibly no fine distinction is meant, and the 
terms Katha aud Akhyayika are employed here in the general 
sense of a story. A rigid differentiation, however, cannot 
perhaps be made in practice between the fable aftd the tale ; 
for the different elements in each are not entirely excluded in 
the other, nor isolated. The beast-fable, as typified by the 
PaHcatantra^ is riot seldom enriched by folk-tale and spicy stories 
of human adventure, while the tale, as represented by the 
Brhatkathd^ sometimes becomes complex by absorbing some of 
the elements of the fable and its didactic motive. Both these 
types^ again^ should be distinguished from the prose romance, the 
so-called Katha and Akhyayika^ such as the Harsa-carita and the 
Kadambarl, in which all the graces ard refinements of the Kavya 
are transferred from verse to prose, either to create an exuberantly 
fanciful story or to vivify and transform a legend or folk-tale. 

The currency of tales and fables of all kinds may be pre- 
sumed from remote antiquity, but they were perhaps not used 
for a definite purpose^ nor reduced to a literary form, until 

1 See S. K. De, The Katba and the Akhyayika in Classical Sanskrit in BSOS, III, 
p. 307f.- Dandin tf-28> speaks of Xkhyana as a general species, in which col lectio us of tales 
like the Paiicatantra were probably included, 


at a comparatively late period. The ancestor of the popular tale 
may have been sach Vedic Akhyanas as are preserved, for instance, 
in the Rgvedic dialogue-hymn of Pururavas and UrvasI, or in 
such Brahmanic legends as that of Sunah^epa ; but it is futile 
to seek the origin of the beast-fable in the Rgvedic hymn of frogs 
(vii. 103), which panegyrises the frogs more from a magical 
than didactic motive, or in the Upanisadic parable of dogs (Gh. 
Up. i. 12), which represents the dogs as searching out a leader 
to howl food for them, but which may have been either a satire 
or an allegory. Nor is there any clear recognition of the fable 
in the Epics as a distinct literary genre, although the motifs of 
the clever jackal, the naughty cat and the greedy vulture are 
employed for the purpose of moral instruction. But all these, 
as well as the Jataka device of illustrating the virtues of 
Buddhism by means of beast-stories, 1 may have suggested the 
material out of which the full-fledged beast-fable developed in 
the Pancatantra. In its perfected form, it differed from the 
simple parable or the mere tale about beasts, in having the 
latent didactic motive clearly and deliberately brought out and 
artistically conveyed in a definite framework and a connected 
grouping of clever stories, in which the thoughts and deeds of 
men are ascribed to animals. There is nothing simple or 
popular in such a form ; and the beast-fable as an independent 
literary creation diverged considerably in this respect 
from the popular tale, which is free from didactic presenta- 
tion and in which the more or less simple ideas of the 
people and their belief in myth and magic, as well as racy 
stories of human life, find a direct expression. In the case 
of beast-fable, again, the connexion with the courts of princes is 
clearer. The popular tale, no doubt, speaks of romantic prince 
and princess of a fairy land ; but the framework of collection of 
beast-fables like the Paftcatantra, which is delivered in the form of 

1 The Barhut Stupa reliefs, depicting some of the stories, establish the currency of the 
beast-fable at least in the 2nd Century B.C. 


instruction to tender- minded young princes in statecraft and 
practical morality, leaves no doubt about one form of its employ- 
ment. It is thus closely related to the Niti-^astra and Artha- 
fiastra, 1 but it is not directly opposed to the Dharma-^astra. The 
fact is important ; for even if the beast-fable inculcates political 
wisdom or expediency in the practical affairs of life, rather than 
a strict code of uprightness, it seldom teaches cleverness at the 
expense of morality. 2 

a. The Pancatantra 

The only collection of beast-fable and the solitary surviving 
work of this kind in Sanskrit is the Pancatantra, which has come 
down to us in various forms ; but it is a work which has perhaps 
a more interesting history than any in world-literature. 3 There 
can be little doubt that 4 from the very beginning it had a 
deliberate literary form. Each of its five parts, dealing respec- 
tively with the themes of separation of friends (Mitra-bheda), 
winning of friends (Mitra-prapti), war and peace (Samdhi- 
vigraha), loss of one's gains (Labdha-nasa) and hasty action 
(Apariksita-karitva), is a narrative unit in itself ; but all together 
they form a perfect whole fitted into the frame of the introduction. 

1 No direct influence of Kaulilya's Artha-xastra can be traced in the ra. 

2 F. Edgerton in JAOS, XL, p. '271 f. 

3 J. Hertel (Das Paftcatantra, seine Geschichie und seine Verbreitung, Leipzig 
and Berlin, 1914, Index, p. 451 T.) records over 200 different versions of the work 
known to exist in more than 50 languages (three-fourths of the languages befn? 
extra-Indian) and spreading over a region extending from Java to Iceland. For a 
brief re"sum6 of this history, as well as for a brief summary of the work, see Winter- 
nitz, GIL, III, pp. 294-311 ; Keith, HSL, pp. 248 f, 357 f. The question whether the indivi- 
dual tales or the Indian fable itself as a species, were borrowed, in their origin, from Greece 
is much complicated. Chronology is in favour of the priority of Greece, but the suggestion 
that India consciously borrowed from Greece is not proved. Some points of similarity may 
be admitted, but they may occur without borrowing on either side At any rate, if reciprocal 
influences and exchanges occurred, India seems to have given more than it took. Benfey's 
position thnt. the tale is entirely Indian, while the fable came from Greece, need not be dis- 
cussed, for i'olklorists to-day no longer seek to find the bhthplaceof all tales and fublrn in 
any one country. 


The stories are told, as in the case of the popular tale, in 
simple but elegant prose, and there is no attempt at descriptive 
or sentimental excursions or elaborate stylistic effects. The com- 
bining of a number of fables is also a characteristic which it 
shares with the popular tale, but they arc not merely emboxed ; 
there is, in the weaving of disjointed stories, considerable skill in 
achieving unity and completeness of effect. The insertion of a 
number of general gnomic stanzas in the prose narrative is a 
feature which is dictated by its didactic motive ; but the tradition 
is current from the time of the Brahmanas and the Jatakas. 
More interesting and novel, if not altogether original, is the device 
of conveniently summing up the moral of the various stories in 
pointed memorial stanzas, which are not general maxims but- 
special labels to distinguish the points of individual fables. The 
suggestion 1 of a hypothetical prose-poetic Vedic Akhyana, in 
which the verse remained fixed but the prose mysteriously dropped 
out, is not applicable to the case of the blend of prose and verse 
in the fable literature ; for the prose here can never drop out, and 
the essential nature of the stanzas is gnomic or recapitulatory, 
and not dramatic or interlocutory. There must have existed a 
great deal of floating gnomic literature in Sanskrit since the time 
of the Brahmanas, which might have been utilised for these 
passages of didactic wisdom. 

The Paflcatantra, however, is not a single text, but a 
sequence of texts ; it exists in more versions than one, worked 
out at different times and places, but all diverging from a single 
original text. The original, 2 which must have existed long before 
570 A.D. when the Pahlavi version was made, is now lost ; but 
neither its date nor its title nor provenance, is known with 

1 H. OJdeuberg in ZDMG, XXXVII, p. 54 f ; XXXIX, p. 52 f ; also- in his Zur Geschichte 
d. altindischen Prosa, Berlin 1917, p. 53 f and Lit. d. alien Indien, cited above, pp 44 f 
125 f, ]53f. ' 

2 The idea of a Prakrit original is discredited both by Hertel and Edgerton. The 
literature on the Paflcatantra is vast and scattered, but the results of the various studies will 
be found summarised in the works, cited below, of these two scholars. 


certainty. The character and extent of the transformation, to 
which the work was subjected in course of time, make the 
problem of reconstruction one of great intricacy, but the 
labours of Hertel 1 and Edgerton 2 have succeeded in a great 
measure in going back to the primary Paficatantra by a close and 
detailed examination of the various existing versions. That it 
originally contained five books with a brief introduction and was 
called Paftcatantra, is now made fairly certain, but there is a con- 
siderable discussion of the meaning of the word Tantra. It may 
denote nothing more than a book or its subject-matter, but since 
it occurs in the title Tantrahhyayika of one of the versions, 3 it 
may indicate a text of polity as an art. There is no evidence 
at all of authorship ; for the name Visnusarman, applied in the 
introduction to the wise Brahman who instructs, with these 
stories, the ignorant sons of king Amarasakti of Mahilaropya in 
Deccan, is obviously as fictitious as the names of the king and 
the place. Hertel thinks that the work was composed in 
Kashmir, but his arguments are inadequate ; while nothing can 
be confidently inferred from the mention of Gauda or Bsyamuka 
or of well known places of pilgrimage like Puskara, Varanasi, 
Prayaga and Garigadvara. 

The various important recensions of the Pancatantra have 
been classified into four main groups, 4 which represent diversity 
of tradition, but all of which emanate from the lost original. 
The first is the lost Pahlavi version, 6 from which were derived 

1 Das Paftcatantra, cited above, as well as works and editions cited below. 
* The Pancatantra Reconstructed t Text, Critical Apparatus, Introduction and Translation, 
2 vols., American Orient. Soc., New Haven, Conn., 1924, 

3 Jacobi, however, would translate it apparently as a collection of akhyayika in tantras, 
'die in bucher eingeteilte Erzahlungssammlung.' See F. W. Thomas in JRAS, 1910, p. 1347. 

4 Hertel, however, believes ia two versions of one Kashrnirian recension only as the 
archetype of the other three recensions, namely, the Tantr&khyayika and what be calls 
'E*. For a abort genealogical table, setting forth the relationship of tfce- four main recensions 
or groups, see Edgerton, op. cit. t II, p. 48, and for a full and detailed table cf all known 
versions see Penzer's Ocean of Story', Vol. V, p. 242 (also by Edgerton). 

6 Made by he physician Burzoe under the patronage of Chosroes Anu0hTrwan 
(581-79 A.D.) under* he title Karataka and Darnanaka. 


the old Syriac 1 and Arabic 2 versions ; and it was through this 
source that the Paficatantra, in a somewhat modified form, was 
introduced into the fable literature of Europe. The second 
is a lost North-western recension, from which the text was 
incorporated into the two North-western (Kashmirian) Sanskrit 
versions of Gunadhya's Brhatkatha, made respectively by 
Ksemendra and Somadeva (llth century A.D.). 8 The third is 
the common lost source of the Kashmirian version, entitled 
Tantrakhyayika, 4 and of the two Jaina versions, namely, the 
Simplicior Text, well known from Biihler and Kielhorn's not 
very critical edition, 6 and the much amplified Ornatior Text, 
called Paficakhyana, of Purnabhadra (1199 A.D.). 6 The fourth 
is similarly the common lost source of the Southern Paficatantra, 7 

1 Made by Bud, a Persian Christian, about 570 A.D. under the title Kalilag wa 
Damnag. Ed Schulthess, Berlin 1911. 

1 Made by 'Abdullah Ibnu'l-Muquffa about 750 A.D. under the style Kallla wa 
Dimna. Ed. L Cheikbo, 2nd Ed., Beyrouth 1923. 

* Brhatkatha-maftjari xvi. '255 f ; Hatha-sarii-sagaTa lx-!xiv. Leo von Mankowski baa 
edited, with trans etc., (from only one imperfect MS), Kseu.endra'a version separately in Der 
Auszug aus dem Paftcatanlra m Kfemendras Brhatkathamafljari, Leipzig 1892. Lacote, 
Hertel and Edgerton make it probable that the original Bfhatkatha of Gunadbya did not 
contain the Paflcatanlra. S^madeva's \ersion of the Paficatantra (accordii g to Eruenau'e 
computation in JAOS, LI II, 1^33, p. 125) contains 539 Slokas, while Ksemendra's in 
Mankowtki's edition , haa 806 ; but deducting the stories not found in Somadeva, Ksemendra's 
total would be about 270 only. 

4 Ed. J. Hertel, Berlin 1910, containing two sub-versions ; also ed. J. Hertel in 
Harvard 0. 8., Cambridge Mass. 1915; tra J. Hertel, 2 vols., Leipzig and Berlin 1909. 

5 Bombay Skt. Ser., 1868-69 ; also ed. L. Kosengarten Bonn 3848 ; ed. K. P. Parab, 
NSP, Bombay 1896 (revised Parab and V. L. Panshikar 1912). J. Hertel, Uber die Jaina 
Recensionen des Paficatantra in BSGW, LIV, 1902, pp. 23-134, gives selections of text and 

6 Ed J. Hertel, Harvard Orient Ser,, Cambridge Mass., 1908-12; trs into German by 
Schmidt, Leipzig 1901; into English by A.W.Ryder, Chicago 1925. Purnabhadra uses 
both the Tantrakhyayika and the Simplicior text. 

7 Ed. J. Hertel (Text of recension 0, with variants from recension a\ Leipzig 1906; 
Text of recension o, ed. Heinrich Blatt, Leipgig 1930. See also J. Hertel, Ober einen 
siidlicl.en textus amplior des Paficatantra in ZDMG, 1906-07 (containing translation of 
text). Of the Nepalese version. Bk. i-iii are included in Hertel's ed. mentioned above, while 
Bk. iy-v in his. ed. of Tantrakhyayikd, introd., p. xxvii. Selections from the Nepalese version 
published with trs. by Bendali in JRAS, 1888, pp. 466-501. See Herte.1 in ZDM 0, LXIV, 
1910, p. 58 f and Dos Paftcatantra, pp. 37 f , 818 f, 

J2 1848B 


the Nepalese version and the Bengali Hitopadega. 1 A detailed 
study of the character and interrelation of the various recensions 
and versions is not possible here, but some of their general 
characteristics may be briefly noted. The Tantrakhyayika is 
perhaps the oldest Sanskrit version, and preserves the original 
text better and more extensively than any other version. But 
none of the recensionsnot even the Tantrakhyayika, the claims 
of which have been much exaggerated by Hertel represents in 
its entirety the primitive text. The North-western original of 
Ksemendra and Somadeva must have been a version made much 
later in Kashmir. Ksemendra's fairly faithful, but dry, abstract 
suffers from its brevity, but Somadeva's narrative, inspite of a 
few omissions and some interruption of sequence by the introduc- 
tion of extraneous tales, is normally clear and attractive. There 
is a great deal of reshuffling of stories, as well as intrusion of 
additional matter, in both the Simplicior and Ornatior Texts, the 
former adding seven and the latter twenty-one new stories. The 
Southern recension exists in several sub-versions ; it is much 
abbreviated, but nothing essential appears to have been omitted, 
and only one complete story (The Shepherdess and her Lovers) is 
added. The Hitopadeta* which has currency mostly in Bengal, 
is practically an independent work, containing only four and not 
five books, by one Narayana, whose patron was Dhavalacandra 
and who must have lived before 1373 A.D., which is the date 
of one of the manuscripts of the work. The compiler amplifies 
the stories derived in the main from the Paficatantra, by drawing 
upon an unknown source, considerably omits, alters, remodels 

1 Repeatedly printed in India, but not yet critically edited. The better known ed. 
is by P. Peterson, Bomb. Skt. Ser., 1887; also Hitopadetia nach NepaUschen Handfchrift. ed. 
H. Blatt, Berlin 1980 (Roman characters). The earliest ed. is that of A. Hamilton, London 
1810, and the earliest trs. by C. Wilkins, London, 1787. 

2 See J. Hertel, fiber Text und Verfasser des Hitcpade&a (Bias.) Leipzig 1897, 
p. 37, and Das Paficatantra, p. 38 f. In spite of omissions and alteration, the Hitopadeta 
preserve! over half the entire sub-stories of the Paficatantra, and follows closely the archetype 
which it shares with the Southern recension, 


the sequence of books and stories, and inserts large selections of 
didactic matter from Kamandaklya NUi-sara. 

Although Hertel is right in believing that the Pancatantra 
was originally conceived as a work for teaching political wisdom^ 
yet the fact should not make us forget that it is also essentially 
a story-book, in which the story-teller and the political teacher 
are unified, most often successfully, in one personality. There 
are instances where the professed practical object intrudes itself, 
and tedious exposition of polity prevails over simple and vivid 
narration ; but these instances are happily not too numerous, 
and the character of the work as a political text-book is never 
glaring. Inequalities doubtless appear in the stories existing in 
the different versions, but most of them being secondary, it can 
be said without exaggeration that the stories, free from descrip- 
tive and ornamental digressions, are generally very well and 
amusingly told. They show the author as a master of narrative, 
as well us a perfect man of the world, never departing from an 
attitude of detached observation and often possessed of a con- 
siderable fund of wit and humour veiled under his pedagogic 
seriousness. If he makes his animals talk, he makes them talk 
well and the frankly fictitious disguise of the fabliau eminently 
suits his wise and amusing manner. With a few exceptions, the 
individual stories are cleverly fitted together into a complex but 
well planned form. The language is elegantly simple, and 
the author shows taste and judgment in never saying a word 
too much, except for a touch of the mock-heroic, and 
in realising that over-elaboration is out of place. The gnomic 
stanzas, if not the title- verses, are not always demanded by the 
narrative, but they are meant to give sententious summary of 
wo:ldly wisdom and impressive utterance to very ordinary, but 
essential, facts of life and conduct. We do not know how 
far these stanzas are original, for some of them occur in the 
Epics and elsewhere ; but they are generally phrased with 
epigrammatic terseness, and form an interesting feature, 
in spite of the tendency to over-accumulate them. It is not 


without reason, therefore, that the work enjoyed, and still enjoys, 
such unrivalled popularity as a great story-book in so many 
different times and lands. 

b. The Brhatkathd of Gunadhya 

The popular tale is represented by a number of works in 
Sanskrit, but the earliest appears to have been the Brhatkatha, or 
' the Great Story/ of Gunadhya, the Prakrit original of which is 
lost, but which is now known from three comparatively late 
Sanskrit adaptations. Its exact date ] cannot be determined, but 
that it already received recognition before GOO A.D. is clear from 
the references to its importance by Bana 2 and Subandhu 3 ; and 
there is nothing to show that it cannot be placed much earlier. 
If it belongs to a period after the Christian era, it is not 
improbable that the work took shape at about the same time as 
the lost original of the Pancatantra ; and to assign it to the fourth 
century A.D. would not be an unjust conjecture. 4 The recorded 
tradition informs us that the original Brhatkathd was composed 
in Paisaci Prakrit; and it is noteworthy that the literary form 
which the popular tale first assumed was one in Prakrit. Like 
the Pancatantra, the work of Gunadhya was undoubtedly a new 
literary creation, but the medium of expression perhaps indicates 
a difference in method and outlook. 

J On the question of date and author, see J. S. Speyer, Studies about KaihSsariisdgarfi 
Amsterdam 1908, p. 44 f. Biihler in his Kashmir Report summarily places the work in tin 
first centnry A.D., with ttluch F. Lac6te (Melanges Ltvi, p. 270) appears to agree; bu 
S. Levi (ThMtre indien, 1801, p. 817) cautiously adjusts it to the 3rd century. See Keith in 
JRAS, 3909, p. 145f. Both Dandin's Dasa-kumdra-carita and Subandhu's Vasavadattd refer 
to the story of Naravahaoadatta. 

3 Hara-carita t Introductory gt. 17. 

3 Ed. F. . Hall, p. 110. 

4 The alleged Sanskrit version of Durvinlta of the 6th century (R. Narasimhacbar in 
L4,LXII, 1913, p. 204 and JRAS, 1913, p. 889 f; Fleet in JRAS, 1911, pp. 186 f) and the 
upposed Tamil version of the 2nd cf-ntury A. I). (S. K. Aiyungar in JRAS, 1906, p. 689 f ; a> d 
Ancient India, London 1911, pp. 328, 337} are too doubtful to be of any use r or chronological 
purposes. See Lacote, Euai sur Gunafyya et la Brhatkatha, Parin 1908, p. 198 f. 


An obviously legendary account of the origin of the work 
and the personality of the author is given, with some variations, 
in the introductory account of the two Kashmirian Sanskrit 
versions and in the apocryphal Nepala-mahatmya 1 of a pseudo- 
Puranic character. It makes Gunadhya an incarnation of 
a Gana of Siva, who under a curse is born at Pratisthana on the 
Godavarl and becomes a favourite of king Satavahana ; but the 
king has another learned favourite in Sarvavarman, the reputed 
author of the Katantra grammar. Having lost a rash wager with 
Sarvavarman, with regard to the teaching of Sanskrit to the 
king, who had been put to shame by the queen for his ignorance 
of the language, Gunadhya abjures the use of Sanskrit 
and society, and retires to the wild regions of the Vindhya hilts. 
There, having learnt from another incarnated Gana of Siva 
the story of the Brhatkatha, originally narrated by Siva to 
ParvatI, he records it in the newly picked up local PaisacT 
dialect, in 700,000 Slokas, of which only one-seventh was 
saved from destruction and preserved in the work as we have it ! 
The Nepalese version of the legend, however, places Ciunadhya's 
birth at Mathura and makes king Madana of Ujjayini his 
patron; it knows nothing of the wager but makes Gunadhya, on 
being vanquished by Sarvavarman, write the story in PaisacI for 
no other explicit reason than the advice of a sage named 
Pulastya. The legend is obviously a pious Saiva invention 
modified in different ways in Kashmir and Nepal; 2 from the 
reference in the Har$a-carita, one may inter that it was known 
in some form to Banabhatta ; but the value of biographical and 
other details te not beyond question, if Sarvavarman is 
introduced, Panini, Vyadi and Vararuci-Katyayana also figure in 
the legend as contemporaries, although the Nepalese compiler 
does not appreciate the grammatical interest, nor' the use of 

1 Given in Lacdte, op. ctt., Appendix, p. 29] f. 

2 It is as a saint of Saivism that Gunu<Jbya figured in the Nepalese work, as well as 
in a Cambodian inscription of about 876 A.D., which is of Saitite inspiration (S. Le"vi in JA, 


Prakrit. The association with Satavahana recalls one of the 
brilliant periods of Prakrit literature, and probably suggests that 
the employment of Sanskrit by the Ksatrapa rulers probably 
found a counter-movement in favour of the patronage of Prakrit 
literature; but Satavahana being a dynastic name, which may 
denote any of several kings, it does not help to solve the 
chronological problem. 3 

But much controversy has naturally centred round the 
value of the Gunadhya legend regarding its testimony on the 
form of the lost work and its language. The legend speaks of 
Gunadhya's work being written in Sloka and in the dialect of 
the wild people of the Vindhya regions, which is called the 
dialect of the Pi^acas or Paigacl. Dandin, in his Kavyadarga 
({. 88), appears to know the legend in some form, and states that 
the work was written in the Bhuta-bhasa ; but he thinks that 
it was a type of the prose romance known as Katha, in which, 
of course, verse was allowed to be inserted. The three existing 
Sanskrit versions are all metrical, but this need not invalidate 
Dandin's statement, if Dandin can be presumed to have possessed 
a direct knowledge of the work already famous in his time. 
More inconclusive is the evidence regarding the nature and 
location of the dialect in which the work was composed. In 
accordance with the legend, the PaisacI Prakrit is localised 2 as 
the dialect of the Vindhya regions lying near about Ujjayini, but it 
is also maintained 3 that it was a North-western Prakrit of Kekaya 
and eastern Gandhara, which is regarded as the ancestor of the 
group of Dardic dialects now spoken in Kafirstan, Swat valley, 

1 On the alleged Greek influence on MunAclhya's work, see Lacote, op. cit. f pp. 284-86, 
who argues the opposite way to show that the Greek rommce was influenced by the Indian. 
See Keith, HSL, p. 866 f. 

* Sten Konow in ZDMG, LXIV, 1910, p. 95 f and JRAS, 1921> p. 244 f; Keith, HSL, 
p. 269. Bsjas*ekhara (Kavya-rriimarpsa, p. 51) apparently holds the same view. Sten Konow's 
view, in brief, is that the Pais*aci was an Indo- Aryan language spoken by Dravidians in 
Central India. 

3 G. Grierson iu JRAS, 1905, p. 285 f, ZDMG, LXVI, 1913, pp. 49 f, at pp. 74-8C, 
JRAS, 1921, p. 424 f, as well as ia his Linguistic Survey, 1919, Vol. Ill, pt. 2 and in 
Hastings, ERE, under Paigaca, Vol. X (1918), p. 43 f. 


Citral and adjacent places. The difficulty of arriving at a final 
conclusion * lies in the fact that the statements of fairly late 
Prakrit grammarians about Pai^acI Prakrit, as well as the doubtful 
fragments cited by them as specimens, 2 are meagre and uncertain. 
It is also not safe to argue back from the character and location 
of present-day dialects to those of a hypothetical Prakrit. The 
designation Pai^acI was perhaps meant to indicate that it was an 
inferior and barbarous dialect, and the sanction of a vow was 
required for its employment ; but what we know about it 
from Prakrit grammarians and' other sources makes it probable 
that it was an artificial form of speech nearer in some respects 
to Sanskrit than the average Prakrit. If it hardened / and d 
alone, it is a characteristic which may be equally applicable to a 
Vindhya dialect influenced by Dravidian and to a dialect of the 
North-west. The question, therefore, does not admit of an easy 
solution, although greater plausibility may be attached to the 
linguistic facts adduced from the Dardic dialects. 

The exact content and bulk of the original Brliatkatha cannot 
also be determined, even to the extent to which we can 
approximate to those of the original Pancatantra . We have two 
main sources of knowledge, derived from Kashmir and Nepal 
respectively, but both of them employ a different medium of 
expression, and are neither early nor absolutely authentic. 
The first is given by two metrical Sanskrit adaptations of 
Kashmir, namely, the Brhatkatha-mafijar'i * ' the Bouquet of Great 

1 Lacote, op. cit. t p. 51 f. Lac6te believes the Pui^acT to be based upon the Indo-Aryan 
language of the North-wee/, but spoken by non-Aryan people. He suggests a via media by 
stating that Gunadhya picked up the idea of the dialect from travellers from the North-west;, 
I ut his sphere of work lay around Ujjayinll Cf. F. W. Thomas, Foreword to Penzer's cd. of 
Ocean of Story, Vol. IV, pp. ix-x. 

2 Hemacandra's Prakrit Grammar, ed. Pischel, iv. 303-24; for Markendieys , see 
Grierson in JRAS, 1918, p. 391. For a discussion of the passages, see Lac6te, op. erf., 
p 201 f. Vararuci speaks of one Pais'acI dialect ; Heujacandra appears to distinguish three 
varieties; Mftrkan<jeya increases the number to thirteen 1 Different localities are mentioned, 
i>ut one locality is agreed upon, viz., Kekaya or N. W. Punjab. 

3 Ed. Sivadatta and Parab, NSP, Bombay, 1901. Parts of it (introduction and first 
two stories), translated with the Eoman text, by S. Le*vi in JA, 1885-86, 


Tale,' of the polymath Ksemendra, and the Katha-sarit-sagara,* 
* the Ocean of Rivers of Tales/ of Soraadeva, the latter written 
between 1063 and 1082 A.D. and the former about a quarter of a 
century earlier. 2 Like Somndeva's work, that of Ksemendra is 
divided into eighteen Lambhakas, 3 but it is of the nature of a 
condensed abstract, industriously and perhaps (as his other 
Mafijaris show) faithfully compiled. It consists of about 7,5 "0 
31okas, as against more than 21,000 of Somadeva's work ; but 
Ksemendra makes up for the brevity and dreariness of his 
narrative by a number of elegant, but mannered, descriptive and 
erotic passages. 4 Somadeva, on the other hand, is not anxious 
to abridge ; but he shows considerable restraint in avoiding 
useless elaboration, and tells his stories with evident zest and in 
a clear and attractive manner. At one time it was thought that 
these two Kashmirian versions drew directly from the Prakrit 
original, but the idea has now been discarded, not only from the 
comparative evidence of their contents, but also in view of the 
discovery in Nepal in 1893 of the second important source, 
namely, the BrhatkatM-loka-samgraha of Budhasvamin, 5 which 
is also in Sloka, but unfortunately incomplete. Its date is un- 
known, but it is assigned, mainly on the probable date and 

1 Ed. Durgaprasad and Parab, NSP, Bombay 1889 (reprinted 1903, 1915 etc.). II. 
Brokhaus edited i-v (with trs.), 2 vols. Leipzig 1813, and vi-viii, ix-xviii (text only) in Abb fiir 
die Kunde d. Morgenlandes, II and IV, Leipzig 1862 and 18G6. The work is well known from 
its Eng. trs. by C. H. Tawney under the title Ocean of Story in Bibl. Ind., Calcutta 1880-87, 
reprinted with notes and essays, etc., by N. M. Penzer in 10 vols., London 1924-28. 

2 See Biihler, Uber das Zeitalter des katmirisclien Didders Somadeva, Wien 1885. 
Somadeva wrote the work to please SilryamatT, princess of Jalarpdbara, wife of Ananta and 
mother of Kalada. Ksemendra also wrote most of his works under king Kalas*a of Kashmir. 

5 The division d es not seem to be original, being missing in Budbosvamin's version, 
which has Sarga division. The sections are called Gucchakas * clusters ' in Ksemendra, and 
Tarangas 'billows ' in Soraadeva, according to the respective titles of their "works. 

* On these descriptive passages, see Speyer, op. ct., p. 17 f. Speyer estimates that 
Ksemendra 's work contains 7,561 gltkas, Somadeva's 21,388. 

5 Ed. F. Lacdte, with trs,, Paris 1908-29 (i-xxviii). The work was first discovered 
by Haraprasad Sastri in Nepal, but its importance wag not realised till Lac6te edited the 
work and published the results of his investigations. The MS is from Nepal, but otherwise 
there is no sign of the Nepalese origin of the work. 


tradition of the manuscript, to the 8th or 9th century A.D. 
Although this work is a fragment of 28 Sargas and 4,539 stanzas, 
and also, as its name implies, an abbreviated abstract, its 
evidence is highly important regarding the existence of two 
distinct traditions of the text, which show considerable and 
remarkable divergences. 1 

Tbe main theme of both the recensions appears to be the 
adventures of Naravahanadatta, son of the gay and amorous 
Udayana, famed in Sanskrit literature, and bis final attainment 
of Madanamanjuka as his bride and the land of the Vidyadharas 
as his empire; but in the course of the achievement, he visits 
many lands and contracts a large number of marriages with 
beautiful maidens of all kinds and ranks. A vital difference, 
however, occurs in the treatment of the theme. While the 
Nepalese recension concentrates upon the main theme and gives 
a simple and connected narrative, comparatively free from 
extraneous matters, the Kashtnirian recension is encumbered 
by a stupendous mass of episodic stories, indiscriminately accu- 
mulated and remotely connected, regardless of the constant 
break and obscuration of the original theme. The Nepalese 
recension, for instance, ornits the introductory Gunadhya 
legend, which occurs in the Kashmirian, and plunges at once 
into the story of Gopala and Palaka and of the love of Gopala's son 
for Suratamanjarl, connecting it with the story of Naravahana- 
datta, who is made the narrator of the tale of his twenty-six 
marriages. The Kashmirian authors are apparently aware of this 
beginning, but the necessity of commencing with the Gunadhya 
legend and making Gunadhya the narrator of the tale makes them 
shift the story of -Gopfila, Pfilaka and Suratamanjarl, and place it, 
unconnectedly, as a kind of appendix at the end. The Nepalese 
recension omits also the unnecessary tale of Udayana 's winning of 

1 See Lac6te, Essai cited above, for a discussion of the Kashmirian versions, pp. 61-145, 
the Nepalese version, pp. 146-196, comparison of the two versions, pp. 207-18, and of the 
original Bfhatkatha, pp. 1-59. 


PadmSvati, and does not think it desirable to provide royal ancestry 
for the courtesan Kalingasena, mother of Madanamanjuka, in 
order to conceal the questionable origin of the heroine. In the 
Kashmirian recension, the hero Naravahanadatta does not even 
pake his appearance till his birth in Bk. IV (in both versions), 
but the narrative of the. hero is interrupted for two more books 
by the stories of Saktivega and Suryaprabha, who, recognising 
in the infant the destined emperor of the Vidyadharas, relate 
their own adventures as aspirants to the same rank. In this 
way, the main theme is constantly interrupted by a vast cycle 
of legends, although Ksemendra and Somadeva are not in perfect 
agreement, after Bk. IV, regarding the sequence and arrangement 
of the extra mass of material. It is clear that both the Kash- 
mirian versions do not, in their zeal for collection, succeed in 
producing a unified or well-constructed work, although the 
narrative of Somadeva, who is a consummate story-teller, is 
marked, in spite of its bulk, by greater coherence and desire 
to preserve, however strenuously, the effect of the main story. 
The accretions, for example, not only bring in entirely irrelevant 
stones of Mrgankadatta and Muktaphalaketu, of expedition to 
the Camphor Land and the White Island for the winning of 
Ratnaprabha and Alamkaravati respectively, but also incorporate 
the Vikramaditya cycle of legends and interpolate versions of 
the entire Paflcatantra and the Vetala-pancavimati. All this, 
with the addition of countless number of small tales, legends 
and witty stories, would justify the quaint, but appropriate, 
name of Somadeva' s largest collection as the ocean of the streams 
of stories, and which in their rich mass would make the over- 
whelmed reader exclaim that here is indeed God's plenty ! 

How far these episodes and legend-cycles belonged to the 
original Brhatkatha cannot be precisely determined, but it is 
clear that much of them is remotely and sometimes confusedly 
connected with the main theme, and is entirely missing in the 
Nepalese recension. It is true that Budhasvamin's work is 
speciallyc styled a ompendium (Samgraba) and that his omissions 


may have been dictated by a desire for^ abbreviation ; it is also 
possible 1 that Budhasvainin is an independent writer rather than 
a mere epitomator, although he may have adhered to Gunadhya's 
narrative in the main. But it is clear^ from the way in which the 
thread of the main story of Naravahanadatta is kept from being 
lost in an interminable maze of loosely gathered episodes, that 
these interruptions or deviations from the predominant interest 
could not have occurred on a large scale in the original, if we are 
to presume from its reputation that it was a work of no small 
literary merit. It seems, therefore, that Budhasvamin follows 
the original with greater fidelity 2 than Ksemendra and Somadeva, 
who, apart from minor stories which they individually insert, 
are following a recension refashioned and much enlarged in 
Kashmir. In this recension the central theme appears to occupy, 
after the fashion of Kavya-poets, a subordinate interest; their 
essentials are often abridged and throughout sacrificed to the 
uluborutioii of subsidiary adventures, as well as to a somewhat 
confused insertion of tales derived from other sources. Whether 
this Kashinirian recension was in Pai&lc! or in Sanskrit is 
not known ; but Somadeva distinctly speaks of having altered 
the language, and there are not enough verbal similarities 3 
between Somadeva and Ksemendra to warrant the supposition 
oi a common Sanskrit original. 

In the absence of the original work of Gunadhya, an estimate 
of its literary merit would be futile. Each of the three adap- 
tations have their own characteristics, which may or may not 
have been inherited from the original. Ksemendra 's abridged 
compilation is rapid, dreary and uninspiring, except in orna- 
mental passages," which doubtless show the influence of the 
Kavya. Somadeva' s larger and more popular masterpiece has 

J Winternitz, GIL, III, pp. 315-17. 

* Lac6be, Essai, p. 207 f, Lacote believes that the Kashmir recension is far removed from 
the original Bfhatkatha. and was compiled about the 7th century A.D. 
3 Bpeyer.oy. eft., p. 27 f, 


been rightly praised for its immensely superior quality of vivid 
story-telling and its elegantly clear, moderate and appropriate 
style. Budhasvatnin's abstract, considered nearer to the original, 
is marked by a sense of proportion both in matter and manner a 
rapid narration, power of characterisation and simple description, 
as well as by a more bourgeois spirit and outlook suiting the 
popular tale ; but, in spite of these qualities, it is of a somewhat 
prosaic cast. It is difficult to say how far all the praiseworthy 
qualities, if not the blemishes, of these late versions, produced 
under different conditions, were present in the primary Brhatkatha, 
a verbal or even a confident substantial reconstruction of which 
is wellnigh impossible. To judge, however, from the principal 
theme, -stories and characters, as well ay iiom the general method 
and outlook, it is possible to assert that Gunadbya must have 
been a master at weaving into his simple story of romantic 
adventure all the marvels of myth, magic and fairy tale, as well 
as a kaleidoscopic view of varied and well-conceived characters and 
situations. Although JSaravahanadatta is a prince, the story is 
not one of court life or courtly adventure, nor even of heroic 
ideals ; it is essentially a picture consonant with the middle class 
view of life and sublimated with the romance of strange adventure 
in fairy lands of fancy. It is certainly a work of larger and 
more varied appeal, containing a gallery ol sketches from liie, 
romantic as well as real ; and Keith is perhaps just in character- 
ising it as a kind of bourgeois epic. The loves of the much- 
married Naravahanaclatta are perhaps too numerous and too light- 
hearted, like those of his famed father LJdayana, but his chief and 
best love, Madanamanjuka, has only one parallel in Vasantasena 
of the Mfcchakatika ; while in Goraukha we have a fine example of 
an energetic, resourceful and wise courtier and friend. It cannot 
be determined with certainty if the numerous tales of fools, rogues 
and naughty women existed in the original ; but they form an 
unparalleled store-house ot racy and amusing stories, which evince 
a wide and intimate experience of human life and are in keeping 
with the humour and robust good sense of people at large. 



From the dramatic fragments of Asvaghosa it is not unreason- 
able to assume that between him and Kalidasa, there intervened 
a period of cultivation of the dramatic art, which we find fully 
developed in the dramas of Kalidasa, and which is warranted by 
Kalidasa's own references to the works of Bhasa, Somila and 
Kaviputra. Of the dramatic works of the last two authors we 
know nothing, but a great deal of facts and fancies are now avail- 
able about Bhasa's dramas. 

Before 1912 Bhasa was known only by reputation, having 
been honoured by Kalidasa and Bana as a great predecessor and 
author of a number of plays, and praised and cited by a succes- 
sion of writers in later times 1 ; but since then, much discussion 
has centred round his name with the alleged discovery of his 
original dramas. Between 1912 and 1915, T. Ganapati Sastri 
published from Trivandrum thirteen plays of varying size and 
merit, which bore no evidence of authorship, but which, on 
account of certain remarkable characteristics, he ascribed to the 
far-famed Bhasa. All the plays appear to have been based upon 
legendary material, but some draw their theine iruin the Epic 
and Puranic sources. From the Kamayaim, we have the Pratima 
and the Abhise/ca ; from the Mahabharata, the Madhyama, 
Duta-vakya, Diita-ghatotkaca, Karna-bhara, Uru-bhanga and 
Pancaratra ; but the Svapna-rdsavadatta, Pratijna-yaugandhara- 
yariaiAvi-maraka&ud Carndatta Lave legendary or invented plots, 
while the Bala-carita deals with the Puranic Krsna legend. 2 The 

1 8. Le*vi, TMAtre indten t Paris 18DO, i, p, 157 f and ii, pp. 31-32 gives a r&mine' of 
literary itiejeiub to Llafaa km^c up to tLat time ; otLer up-to-date rel'ereocea are collected 
together in Appendix to C. H. Devadhar's ed, of the plays, cited below. 

3 The legend is, of course, also found in the Harivarpja. All the plays are available in a 
handy form i&'Bhasa->na{aka-cakra or Plays ascribed to Bhdsa, published- by C, E. Devadhar, 
Poona 1937, but it is better to conHult the origiual Trivandrum editions, to which references 
are givtn below. Trs. into English in two volumes by W. C. Woolner and L. Samp, Oxford 
University Press, 1030-31. There are also numerous editions of some of the individual 
but it is not necessaiy to enumerate them here. 


plays were bailed with enthusiasm as the long-lost works of 
Bhasa, but the rather hasty approbation of a novelty soon died 
down in a whirlwind of prolonged controversy. A large number 
of scholars of eminence and authority whole-heartedly supported 
the attribution to Bhasa 1 , but the reasons adduced did not \\in 
entire and universal satisfaction. 2 This led to a further and 
more detailed examination of the question, yielding some fruitful 
results, and new facts regarding the plays were also brought to 
light. Important arguments were advanced on both sides ; but 
it is remarkable that there is riot a single argument on either side 1 
which can be regarded as conclusive, or which may not be met 
with an equally plausible argument on the opposite side. 8 The 
problem to-day is delicately balanced ; but since emphasis may 
be laid on this or that point, according to personal predilection, 
scholars, with a few exception, appear to have taken up unflinch- 
ing attitudes and arrayed themselves in opposite camps. Between 
the two extremes lies the more sober view 4 which recognises that 

1 For a bibliographical note of publications on Bbasa till 1921, see V. S. Sukthankar in 
JBRAS, 1921-22, pp. 230-49. The following publications after 1921 are of interest : S Levi 
in JA, 1928, p. 19 f ; A.K. and K.R. Pisharoti in BSOS, III, p. 107 f ; T. Ganaputi Sastri in 
JRAS, 1924, p. 668 and BSOS, ITT, p. 627 ; A. K. Pisharoti, Bhasas Worts (reprinted from 
Malayalain journal, liasikaratna), Trhandrum 1925; K. R. Pisharoti in BSOS, III, p. 639, in 
IHQ, I, 1925, pp. 103 f , inlJBRAS. 1925, p. 246 f ; C. K., Devadhar in ABORl, 1924-25, p. 55 f ; 
C. Kunhan Raja in Zeitschr. /. Ind. und Iran, II, p. 247 f and Journal of Orient. Research, 
Madras 1927, p. 232 f ; W. K. Clarke in JAOS, XLIV, p. 101 f ; F. W. Thomas in JRAS, 
1922, p. 79 f, 1925, p. 130 f and 1927, p. 877 f ; Keith in BSOS, III, p. 295 f ; H, Weller in 
Festgabe Harmann Jacobi, Bonn 1926, pp. 114-125 ; Winternitz in Woolner Comm. Volume 
1940, p. 297 f ; A. D. Puselker, Bhasa, a Study, Lahore 1940, etc. 

2 The first doubt appears to have been voiced independently by Ramavatar Sarma in 
Sarada, I, Allahabad 1914-15, and by L. D. Barnett in JRAS t 1919, p. 233 f and in BSOS t 
1920, I, pt. 3, pp. 35-38 (also JRAS, 1921, pp. 587-89, BSOS t III, pp. 35, 
519, JRAS t 1925, p. 99). Among dissenters are also Bhattanatha Svarnin in I A, 
XLV, 1916, pp. 189-95 ; K. R. Pisharoti in works cited above ; and Hirananda Sastri in Bhasa 
and Authorship of the Trivandrum Plays in Memoirs of Arch. Surv. of India, No. 28, 
Calcutta 1926 ; S. Kuppusvarui Sastri in Introd. to Saktibhadra's Ascarya-cujdmani, ed. 
Balamanorama Press, Madras 1929. 

3 An admirably judicious summary of the important arguments on both sides is given 
by V. 8. Sukthanknr in the bibliographical note cited above, and in JBRAS, 1915, p. 126 f. 

* Notably Sukthankar, cited above, and Winternitz in GIL, III, pp. 186, 645; but later 
ojj \Viuternitz is reported to have expressed the opinion that he is no longer a believer in 
Bhaaa'B authorship of the plays (C. R. Devadhar's Preface to the ed. cited above). 


a prima facie case for Bhasa's authorship can be made out, but 
the evidence available does not. amount to conclusive proof. 

It will not be profitable to enter into the details of the 
controversy, but certain facts and arguments are to be taken into 
account before we can enter into a consideration of the plays. 
Since learned opinion is, not without reason, strangely divided , 
nothing is gained by dogmatic and sweeping assertions ; and it 
should be frankly recognised that the problem is neither simple 
nor free from difficulties. The first difficulty is the absence of 
the name of the author, in the prologues and colophons, of all 
the thirteen plays. It has been argued that this would testify 
to the great antiquity of the plays ; and it has been assumed, 
plausibly but without proof, that the colophons were not preserv- 
ed or that such details were left out in pre-classical times. But 
while nothing can be argued from our absolute lack of knowledge 
of pre-classical practice, the accidental and wholesale loss of 
the colophons of all manuscripts of all the thirteen plays by 
the same author is an assumption which demands too much 
from probability. On the other hand, the fact should be 
admitted at the outset that these plays are not forgeries, but form 
a part of the repertoire of a class of hereditary actors of Kerala 
(Cakkyars), that manuscripts of the plays are by no means rare, 
and that in omitting the name of the author, they resemble some 
of the plays of other classical authors similarly preserved by actors 
in Kerala. That they are not the absolutely original dramas of 
Bhasa follows from this; and the assumption that they are 
adaptations, in which the adapters had obvious reasons to remain 
nameless, is at least not less plausible. The next argument 
regarding the technique of the plays is perhaps more legitimate ; 
for there is undoubtedly a lack of conformity to the dramaturgic 
regulations of Bharata and his followers, which are more or less 
obeyed by the normal classical drama. But the argument is not 
as sound as it appears. The technical peculiarities 1 relate to the 
commencement of the Prologue by the Sutradhara, which is 

1 M. Lindenau, Bhasa-stvdien, Leipzig 1918, pp. 30-87, 


supposed to have been noticed by Bfmnbhatta, the use of the 
word Sthapana for Prastavauu,, the introduction of stage-figbts 
and death-scenes, the tragic ending in some plays, and the 
difference 4n the Bharata-vakya. ft has been shewn in reply 
that, while Bana's reference is either obscure, misunderstood or 
entirely irrelevant, 1 the formal features recur also in Malayalam 
manuscripts of quite a number of Sanskrit plays of other .authors 
and are capable of other explanations equally plausible. In the 
absence of adequate knowledge of pre-classical lechnique, such 
peculiarities, as are not confined to the dramas in question alone, 
are hardly of decisive value ; at most, we can infer the interest- 
ing existence of a different dramaturgic tradition, but this does 
not prove the, antiquity of the Trivandrurn plays. 

It has been also argued by the supporters of the attribution 
that expressions and ideas from these plays have been borrowed 
or exploited by authors like Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti. While 
no strict proof or criterion of indebtedness is possible, it can be 
equally well argued, on the contrary, that the author or adapter 
of these anonymous plays * plagiarised the alleged passages 
from standard Sanskrit authors. The citations, again, from 
Bhasa, or criticisms in the rhetorical or anthological literature, 2 

1 It is pointed out that Bana's reference merely speaks of the Bhasa dramas 
commenced by the Sutra<5hfi,ra, a characteristic which, being true of all Sanskrit playa, has no 
special application here. The formula nandyanle> found in the Southern manuscripts before 
and not after the N&ndf-^loka is now known to be a characteustic of most South Indian 
manuscripts of Sanskrit plays in general, ami was, thus, apparently a kcal practice, \\hich 
is neither material nor relevant to the discussion. It is not clear if Bana is really alluding 
to such techuical jjfujovatiofcp &B the shortening of the preliminaries or the combining of the 
functions of; the SutradhSr&^nd the Sthapaka. The rhetorical works are neither unanimous 
nor perfectly clear regarding the jjbsltion of the vdndyanic formula or the use of the word 
Sthapanft. With regard to the employment of the Bharata-vakya, again, the Tnvandrum 
plays do not ^follow a uniform practice which would support any definite conclusion 
regarding them. There are no such extraordinary Patakas in the Trivandrum plnys as 
suggested by Bana^ description . 

* The thirteen antbolopry verses ascribed to Bhfisa (one of which occurs in the 
Matta-vilasa and four aie attributed to other authors) are missing in the Trivandium plays. 
Even if this is suspicious, it proves nothing because of the notoriously uncertain and 
fluctuating character of anthological attributions. ^ See F. W. Thomas in JIIAS, 1927 f 
P. 883 f. 


relied upon by the supporters of the theory, have some plausi- 
bility, but they do not prove much ; for these authors do not 
unfortunately name the plays from which the passages are taken, 
ft is true that one of the famous dramas of Bhasa is cited and 
styled Svapna-vasavadatta by some old authors 1 ; but here again 
the difficulty is that our present text of the Trivandrum Svapna- 
nfitaka does not contain some verses quoted by certain rhetori- 
cians. 2 The difficulty is indeed not insuperable, inasmuch as 
one can imagine that they are misquotations, or that they are 
lost in the present recension ; but the wholly conjectural 
character of such an explanation is obvious. The discussion 
regarding references in the plays to Medhatithi's Bhasya on Manu 8 
or to the Artha-dstra { has not also proved very fruitful. And, 
the least valid of all appears to be the Prakrit argument, 5 
which presumes that archaisms in the Prakrit of the plays 
prove their earliness ; for it is now clear that some of 
them are obvious blunders, and that, of those which are genuine, 
archaisms of a similar type recur in the Malayalam manuscripts 8 
of the plays of other authors, including those of Kalidasa and 
Harsa; they are apparently local developments and cannot be 
made the safe basis of any chronological or literary conclusion. 7 

1 The argument regarding the impossibility of the plagiarism of the title does not, as 
Burnett points out, carry much weight, since wo know of three Kumftra-satnbhavas. 

1 Sukthankar in JBRAS, 1925, p 135 f, shews that the referenca of Bamacandra and 
Grunacandra in their Natya-darpana contains a situation and a stanza, quoted from a Svopna- 
r&savadatta of Bhasa, which really belongs, with some textual difference, to the Trivandrum 
play. F. W Thomas in JRAS, 192R, p. 835 f, similarly deals with Abhinav-igupta's citation 
missing in the Trivandrum play. C,f. also F. W. Thomas in JRAS, 1922, p 100 f. 

3 Barnett in BSOS, ITT, pp. 35, 520-21 ; Kith in BSOS t III, p. 623 f ; Suktbank*r in 
JfUUS, 1925, pp. 131-82. 

4 See Hirananda Sastri, op. ctt., p. 13 f. 

6 W. Printz, Bhasa's Prakrit, Frankfurt 19 H ; Keith in BSOS, IIT, p. 290; V. Lesoy in 
ZDAfO, LiXXH, 1918, p. 203 f ; SnkthanUr in J4OS, XL, 1920, pp. 243-59, andJBJUS, 
i'J25,pp. 103-117. 

* Pisharoti in BSOS, III, p. 109. 

7 Sukthankar in JBRAS, 1925, p. 103 f. Even wh^re the archaisms are genuine, it 
is, as H. L. Turner points out. (JRAS, 1925, p. 1?5), dangeroui to argue about date without 
fall appreciation of possible dialectical differences, becmse a form may not necessarily in licate 
difference of age but only a difference of dialect or locality. 


The historical discussion, again, regarding the identity of 
Bhasa's patron, alleged to be mentioned in the word rdjasimha 
of the Bharata-vakya, is similarly shown to be of very doubtful 
value. 1 

Leaving aside minor questions, these are, in brief, some of 
the important problems that arise out of the Trivandrum plays. 
It will be seen that the same material hns led to absolutely 
contradictory results ; but none of the arguments advanced in 
support of Bhasa's authorship is incontrovertible or reasonably 
conclusive. Opinion, again, is sharply divided about the age of 
the plays, 2 between those who place them in the 5th century B.C. 
and those who bring them down by different stages to the llth 
century A.D., the estimate varying by about sixteen centuries ! 
It is no wonder, therefore, that the whole question has run the 
normal course of enthusiastic acceptance, sceptical opposition 
and subdued suggestion of a via media. But beneath all this 
diversity of opinion lurks the fundamental divergence about the 
literary merits of the plays, the supporters claiming high 
distinction, worthy of a master-mind, and the dissenters holding 
that the works are of a mediocre or even poor quality. As the 
question of literary excellence is not capable of exact determina- 
tion, the difference of opinion is likely to continue, according to 
the personal bias of the particular critic, until some objective 
factor or material would supply a conclusive solution to the 
problem. But it should be made clear that the whole discussion 
has now come to a point where the plays need no longer be 
made the fertile ground of romantic speculations. Already 
different aspects of the plays have been searchingly investi- 

1 Sten Konow, Ind. Drama, p. 51, would assign the author of the plays to the reign 
of Ksatrapa Rudrtsiipha I, i.e., 2nd century A.D., but the arguments are not conclusive. 
Bamett conjectures that rajasimha is a proper name and refers to Paijdya Ter-Maran 
Bajasirph* I (c. 676 A.D ). 

1 Pee Sukfchankar, JBRAS 1923 p. 233, for different estimates of the date by different 


gated 1 ; and even if no definite solution is yet logically justified 
by the results of these intensive studies, they have helped to clear 
up misconceptions, negative baseless presumptions, and bring 
together a mass of material for further research. 

These studies have now made it reasonable to assume that 
the Trivandrum plays, whether they are by Bhasa or by some 
other playwright, are of the nature of adaptations or abridge- 
ments made for the stage, and they have in fact been regularly- 
used as stage -plays in the Kerala country. This very important 
fact should not be lost sight of in any discussion of the plays. 
It explains the traditional handing down of the plays without 
mention of the author's name, in closely resembling prologues, 
which are probably stage-additions, as well as the coincidence of 
formal technique and a large number of repetitions and parallels, 
which recur in these, as also in some other Sanskrit 
plays of Kerala. 2 Some unquestionably old Prakritic forms and 
genuine grammatical solecisms may have in this way been 
fossilised and preserved, although they do not necessarily prove 
the antiquity or authorship of the plays. The thirteen Trivan- 
drum plays reveal undoubted similarities, not only verbal and 
structural, but also stylistic and ideological, which might 
suggest unity of authorship, a theory indicated by the reference 
of Bana and others to a Bhasa Nataka-cakra; but since these are 
adaptations, and the originals are not known, it would be unsafe 
to postulate common authorship on similarities which occur also 
in plays of other known authors preserved in Kerala. 

1 E.g. on the Prakrits of the plays, by Prioiz, Sukthankar and others, as noted above ; 
on lexicographical and grammatical peculiarities, by C. J. Ogden in JAOS, XXXV, 1915, 
pp. 269 f (a list of solecisms are given in A pp. B in Devadhara's ed.) ; on metrical questions, 
by V. 8. Sukthankar in JAOS, XLI, 1921, pp. 10730; on the sources of the Udayana 
legend, by F. Lacote in JA, XIII, 1010, pp. 103-525 and P. I). Gune in ABORI, 1, 1920-21, 
pp. 1-91 ; on a concordance of parallel and recurrent passages, by Sukthankar in ABORI, IV, 
1923, p. 170 f: on the relationship between the Cdrudatta and fie Mrcchakattka by 
Morgenstierne, Vbe^ das Verhaltnis zwischen Carndatta und Mrcchakatika, Leipzig 1921, 
S. K. Belvalkar in Proc. of the First Orient Con/., 1022, p. 180 f, Sukthankar in JAOS, XLII, 
1922, pp. 69-74, and J. Charpentier in JRAS, 1923, p. 599 f ; etc. 

8 Some of these are collected together in Hirananda Sastri, op. cit., pp. 14-16. 


A modified form of the theory makes an exception in favour 
of a limited number of the dramas, the merits of which have 
received wice recognition. It suggests that possibly Bhasa 
wrote a Svapna-vasavadatta 1 and a Pratijna-yaugandharayana, 
closely related to it, of which the present texts give Malayalara 
recensions, and that the present Carudatta is the fragmentary 
original of the first four acts of the Mrcchakatika of Sudraka, 
or at any rate it has preserved a great deal of the original upon 
which Sudraka's drama is based. a But the authorship of the 
remaining plays is as yet quite uncertain. It must be said that the 
reasons adduced for these views undoubtedly make out a strong 
case ; but they are still in a great measure conjectural, and do not 
lead to any finality. It is possible also that the five one-act Maba- 
bharata pieces form a closely allied group, as the surviving 
intermediate acts of a lengthy dramatised version of the Maha- 
bharata story; but here also we have no definite means of 
ascertaining it for a fact. 

In view of these difficulties and uncertainties, it is clear 
that it behoves the sober student to adopt an attitude free from 
susceptibility to any hasty or dogmatic conclusion. The 
objective criterion proving insufficient, the ultimate question 
really comes to an estimate of the literary merits of the plays; 
but on a point like this, opinion is bound to be honestly diver- 
gent and naturally illusive. The circumstance that all these 
plays, even including the limited number which may be, with 
some reason, ascribed to Bhasa, are Malayalam adaptations or 
recensions of the original, causes a further difficulty; for the 
plays are in a sense by Bhasa, but in a sense they are not. The 
fact of their being recasts does not, of course, make them 

1 Sukthankar, in JBRAS, 1925, 134 f, and Thomas in JRAS, 1928, p. 876 f, believe 
that the Trivandrum Svapna has probable minor changes, but has not undergone any great 

8 Morgenstierne, Sukthankar and Belvalkar, as cited above. The C&rudatta is 
undoubtedly a fragment, but from internal evidence it is probable chat the author or the 
compiler never contemplated writing only four acts. It is, however, not explained why this 
work alone is recovered as a fragment. See below under fiudraka. 


forfeit their connexion with the original, but the extent to which 
older material has been worked over or worked up by a later 
hand is unknown and uncertain. The suggestions that have 
been made about distinguishing the apparently older from the 
more modern matter and manner are more or less arbitrary ; for, 
in spite of unquestionably primitive traits, the process involves 
the difficulty of distinguishing the true Bhasa from the pseudo- 
Bhasa, not merely play by play, but scene by scene, and even 
verse by verse. It must also be admitted that all the plays 
are not, by whatever standard they are judged, of equal merit, 
and cannot be taken as revealing the alleged master-mind. One 
must feel that some of the scenes are very inferior and some of 
the verses are of feeble workmanship. At the same time, it 
can hardly be denied that here we have a series of plays, which 
are of varying merit but not devoid ot interest ; that in part or in 
entirety they may not belong to Bhasa, but they certainly 
represent a somewhat different tradition of dramatic practice; 
and that, if they are not as old as some critics think, they are of 
undoubted importance in the literary history of the Sanskrit 

Leaving aside the fragmentar} Carudatta in four acts, 1 the 
two dramas which have won almost universal approbation are 
the Svapna-vasavadatta and the PratijM-yaiigandharayana-, and, 
in spite of obvious deficiencies, the approbation is not unjust. 
Both these works are linked together by external similarities and 
internal correspondences ; and their theme is drawn from the 

1 Ed. T. Gauapati Sastri, Trivandrucn Sansk. Ser., 1914, 1922 ; the text, along with 
correspondences to Sudraka's Mfcchal{atiJ\a t is reprinted by Morgenstierne, op. cit. The 
fragment has no N&ndl verse, and abruptly ends with the heroine's resohe to start out for 
C&rudatta's house. The dramatic incidents do not show any material divergence of a literary 
significance from SudrakA's dram*. The Bhasa play a are published in the following order by 
T. Ganapati Sastri from Trivandrum : Svapna (also 1915, 1916,1923, 1924), PratijUa (also 
1920), Avi.maraka, Paftcaratra (also 1017), Bala-carita, Madhyama (also 1917), Duta-vakya 
(also 1918,1925), Duta-ghatotkaca, Karna-bhara and Uru-bhanga all in 1912, the last five in 
one volume, the other* separately; A bh i$eka 1913; Carudatta 1914 (also 1922) ; and 
1916 (algo 19<>4). 


same legend-cycle of Udayana, 1 the semi-historical beau ideal of 
Sanskrit literature, whose story must have been so popularised 
by the Brhatkatha that Kalidasa assures us of its great popularity 
in his time at Avanti. The story of Udayana's two pretty amou- 
rettes supply the romantic plot to Harsa's two elegant plays ; but 
what we have here is not the mere banality of an amusing court- 
intrigue. In the Pratijna, Udayana and Vasavadatta do not 
make their appearance at all, but we are told a great deal about 
them, especially about Udayana's accomplishments, his courage, 
his love and impetuous acts. It is really a drama of political 
intrigue, in which the minister Yaugandharayana, as the title 
indicates, is the central figure; but it achieves a more diversified 
interest than the Mudra-raksasa by interweaving the well-known 
romance of Udayana's love and adventure into the plot. 
Although the whole drama is characterised by simplicity and 
rapidity of action, it cannot be said that the plot is clearly and 
carefully developed. The ruse of the artificial elephant appears to 
have been criticised by Bhamaha (iv. 40) as incredible, especially 
as Udayana is described as one well-versed in the elephant-lore, 
but it is a device which is not unusual in the popular tale and 
need not be urged as a serious defect. It is, however, not made 
clear at what stage the incident of the music lesson, alluded to 
in IV. 18, actually took place, 2 nor why the captive king, at 
first treated with honour and sympathy, was thrown into prison 

1 On the legend of Udayana, see Lacdte, cited above, and A. V. W. Jackson's intro- 
duction to Priyadar$ika t p. Ixiii f and references cited therein. 

2 It could not have come between Acts II and III for the jester and the mi-lister know 
nothing of it ; and Udayana's famous lute is sent by Pradyota to Vasavadatta in Act II, 
while Udayara lies wounded in the middle palace. In Act III we are told that Udayana, now 
in prison ; somehow recovers the lute and , catches sight of Vaaavadatta, as she goes in an 
open palanquin to worship at a shrine opposite the prison-gate. Nor is the music lesson 
made the occpdion of the first meeting between Acts III and I / ; and yet no other version is 
given in the play. Laodte is perhaps right in pointing out that the allusive waj in which 
the theme is developed in these plays proves that it ws already familiar to their audience, 
and the details, which the dramatist casually introduces or omits, are to be supplied from 
popular tradition. The hiatus, therefore, did not perhaps prove very serious or mateiial to the 
audience of the plays. 


so that " bis fetters clank as he bows before the gods." Never- 
theless, the drama finely depicts the sentiment of fidelity of a 
minister who is prepared even by sacrifice of himself to bring 
about a successful royal alliance. Some of the episodes, 
especially the domestic scene at the palace of Mabasena Pradyota 
and the amusing interlude of the intoxicated page, are skilfully 
drawn ; the characterisation, especially of Yaugandharayana, is 
vivid and effective ; and the sustained erotic sub-plot, despite 
the non-appearance of the principal characters, enhances its main 
interest of political strategy. 

The much praised Svapna-vasavadatta, on the other hand, 
'is less open to criticism. It is more effectively devised in plot, 1 
and there is a unity of purpose and inevitableness of effect. 
The general story belongs to the old legend; but the motif of 
the dream is finely conceived, the characters of the two heroines 
are skilfully discriminated, and the gay old amourist of the 
legend and of Harsa's dramas is figured as a more serious, 
faithful, if somewhat love-sick and imaginative, hero. The 
main feature of the play, however, is the dramatic skill and 
delicacy with which are depicted the feelings of Vasavadatta, to 
whose noble and steadfast love no sacrifice is too great ; while 
her willing martyrdom is set off by the equally true, but helpless, 
love of Udayana as a victim of divided affections and motives of 
statecraft. It is a drama of fine sentiments; the movement is 
smooth, measured and dignified, and the treatment is free from 
the intrusion of melodrama, or of rant and rhetoric, to which 
such sentimental plays are often liable. If it is rough-hewn and 
unpolished, it also reveals the sureness of touch of a great 
dramatist ; and to stint the word masterpiece to it is absurd and 

1 But there are some trifling inconsistencies and lack of inventive skill, e.g., Ute false 
report of Y&savadatti'g death is made the pivot of the plot, but the audience knows from 
tbe beginning that the queen is not really dead. One may, however, justify it by 
Coleridge's dictum of dramatic expectation, instead of dramatic surprise. 


It must be frankly admitted, however, that these 
features are not possessed by the ten remaining Trivandrum 
plays, although each of them possesses some striking scenes or 
remarkable characteristics. Excepting the Paftcaratra, which 
extends to three acts, the Mahabharata plays, whose literary 
merit has been much exaggerated, consist of one act each, and 
form rather a collection of slight dramatic scenes than complete 
and finished dramas. But they are meant to be of a sterner 
stuff, and make up by vigour what they lack in finish, although 
a lurking fondness is discernible for mock-heroic or violent 
situations. The Madhyama has a theme of the nature of a fairy 
tale, of which there is no hint in the Epic ;*but the motif of a 
father meeting and fighting his own son unawares is not original, 
nor is the idea of the 'middle one/ though cleveWy applied, 
unknown, in view of the Brahmana story of Sunah^epa (Ait, BTV, 
vii. 15). What is original is the imagining of the situation out 
of the epic tale ; but the possibilities of the theme are hardly 
well-developed within the narrow limits of one act. There is 
also in the Epic no such embassy of Bhima's son as is dramatised 
in the Duta-ghatotkaca, which describes the tragic death of 
Abhimanyu and the impending doom of the Kurus ; there is some 
taunting and piquancy, but no action, and the whole scene; is 
nothing more than a sketch. The Duta-v&kya is more 'directly 
based on the account of the embassy of Krsna, described in the 
Udyoga-parvan ; but it suffers also from the same Lack of action, 
and the theme is exceedingly compressed and hardly completed. 
While the introduction of the painted scroll of Draupadi is an 
ingenious invention to insult the envoy effectively, the appearance 
|P| Vi^nu's weapons, though original, is silly in serving no useful 
dramatic purpose. In spite of its tragic note and simplification 
of the original story, the Karna-bhara, which describes the sad 
end of Karna, is scarcely dramatic, and the only feature which 
.appeals is the elevation of Kama's character', it is not only a 
one-act play but really a one-character play. The same sympathy 
for the fallen hero is seen in the Uru-bhahga, Vhich represents 


the theme of Duryodhana's tragic death somewhat differently 
from that of the Epic. The noble resignation of Duryodhana and 
the invention of the poignant passage, which brings the biind 
king and his consort on the scene and makes Duryodhana's little 
son attempt to climb on his father's broken thighs, reveal some 
dramatic power ; but the introductory long description of the 
unseen fight is not happily conceived, and the play is also 
remarkable in having as many as sixty-six stanzas in one act 
alone ! The Paftcaratra, in three acts, is longer in extent, and 
perhaps shows more invention and possesses greater interest. Tt 
selects, from the Virata-parvan, the dramatic situation of the 
Pandavas in hiding being forced into battle with the Kunis ; but 
it simplifies the epic story, the details of which are freely 
handled. While Trigarta's attack is omitted, Duryodhana's 
sacrifice, the motif of his rash promise, Abbimanyu's presence 
on the Kaurava side and capture by Bhiraa are invented; and 
Duryodhana and Karna are represented in more favourable 
light, Sakuni being the only villain in the piece. The number 
of characters is large in proportion to its length. The play is 
ingeniously titled, and there are some striking dramatic scenes; 
but regarded as a story, it is far inferior to that of the Epic, and 
there is no substance in the suggestion that it is closer to the 
epic feeling and characterisation. The epic plays are, no doubt, 
of a heroic character, but they are far remo\ed from the heroic 
age ; their novelty wins a more indulgent verdict than is perhaps 
justified by their real merit. 

The Ramayana plays are more ambitious and much larger 
in extent. The Pratima seeks, in seven acts, to dramatise, with 
considerable omission and alteration, the almost entire Ramayana 
story, but its interest centres chiefly round the character of 
Bhar^ta and Kaikeyl. Kaikeyi is conceived as une femme incom- 
prise, a voluntary victim of public calumny, to which she patiently 
submits for the sake of her husband's honour and the life of 
her dear step-son ; and here again we find the same sympathy 
for the martyr and the persecuted. The development of the 

15 ISlftR 


plot is skilfully made to depend on the secrecy of Kaikeyi's 
noble motive for the seemingly greedy conduct of demanding 
the throne for her own son ; but for this, the plea of a Sulka 
(dowry) promised to her by Dagaratha has to be substituted for 
the two boons of the original, and the explanation of the secrecy 
of her motive itself at the end is rather far-fetched v The scene 
of the Statue Hall is connected with the same motif and creates 
a situation ; but it is hardly worked out as the key-note of the 
play, as the title would suggest. The liberty taken in modifying 
the scene of Sita's abduction, no doubt, substitutes a noble 
motive for the vulgar one of the greed for a golden deer ; but it 
fails to be impressive by making Kama a childishly gullible 
person and Eavana a rather common, boastful villain. One of 
the striking scenes of the drama is that of Dasaratha's sorrow and 
death, which reveals a delicate handling of the pathos of the 
situation ; but, on the whole, the, merits and defects of this drama 
appear to be evenly balanced. \/The Abhiseka, on the other hand, 
takes up the Eamayaiia story at the point of the slaying of Valin 
and consecration of Sugriva, and supplies, in six acts, the epi- 
sodes omitted in the other play, ending with the ordeal of S'itfl 
and the consecration of Kama. The play is perhaps so named 
because it begins and ends with a consecration/ But there is not 
much dramatic unity of purpose behind the devious range of epic 
incidents. Its main feature is the sympathetic characterisation of 
Valin and Eavana, but the other figures are of much less interest. 
Eama is directly identified with Visnu ; but he is here, more or 
less, a. ruthless warrior, of whose treacherous slaying of Valin no 
'convincing explanation is offered. In crossing the ocean, the 
miracle of divided waters is repeated from the episode of 
Vasudeva's crossing the Yamuna in the Bala-carita. Even if 
the Abhiseka is not a dreary summary of the corresponding 
parts of the Epic, it contains a series of situations rather 
than a sequence of naturally developed incidents, and is 
distinctly feebler in dramatic character and quality than the 


The Bala-carita , in five acts, is similarly based upon a 
number of loosely joined incidents Irom the early life of Krsna, 
but there are some features which are not found in the epic and 
Puranic legends. 1 If they are inventions, some of them (such as 
the great weight of the baby Krsna, the gushing of water from 
the sands, or the incursion of Garuda and Visnu's weapons) are 
clumsy and serve no dramatic purpose, while the introduction of 
Oandala maidens and of KartyayanI, though bizzarre, is scarcely 
impressive. The erotic episodes of Krsna's career are missing, 
and the softer feeling is not much in evidence. There is a great 
deal of killing in most of the epic dramas mentioned above, but 
the Bala-carita perhaps surpasses them all in melodramatic* vio- 
lence and ferocity. There is the slaying of the bull-demon, of 
the baby-girl hurled on the stone, as well as of the two prize- 
fighters and Kamsa himself, rapidly slaughtered in two stanzas! 
Kamsa. however, is not an entirely wicked person, but, as a fallen 
1iero, is represented with much sympathy. There is, however, 
little unity or completeness of effect ; the play is rather a 
dramatisation of a series of exciting incidents. As such, it is a 
drama of questionable merit ; at least, it hardly deserves the high 
praise that has been showered on it with more zeal than reason. 

The Avi-maraka depicts the love-adventure of a prince in 
disguise, whom a curse has turned, for the time being, into an 
outcast sheap-killer. It is interesting for its somewhat refresh- 
ing, if not original, plot, based probably on folk-tale, 2 of the love 
of an apparent plebeian for a princess. But from the outset it is 
clearly indicated that the handsome and accomplished youth must 
be other than what he seems; and the suspense is not skilfully 
maintained up to the unravelling of the plot at the end. As in 
the Pratijrla, the Vidusaka here is lively and interesting, but a 
Brahmin companion to an apparent outcast is oddly fitted. The 
denouement of a happy marriage, with the introduction of the 

1 On the Krna legend see Winternitz in ZDMG t LXXIV, 1920, pp. 125.37. 

* The motifs of recognition and of the magic ring conferring invisibility are cleaily 

iniDOrta.rtf. ftlAmAnfa stl tliA rtl^t A *~',va A annoronHv f Tt m 

116 fiiStORY OF SAfctSKRtT 

celestial busy-body, Narada, is rather lame ; and the drama is 
not free from a sentimental and melodramatic atmosphere, in 
which the hero seeks suicide twice and the heroine once. For 
diversion from excess of sentiment, there are amusing scenes,, 
such as the dialogue of the hero with the nurse and the small 
episode of the jester and the maid; but there is enough of over- 
strained brooding and one long monologue in the course of the 
hero's sentimental burglary, in which the question is not merely 
of the number of lines, but one of vital connexion. There is, 
however, no justification for the claim that the Avi-maraka is a 
drama of love primitive in its expression and intensity. 

It will be seen that all these plays are more or less faulty, 
and are not as great as they are often represented to be. Judg- 
ment must ultimately pass in respect of the Svapna and the 
Pratijna, which have the greater probability, at least from the 
literary point of view, of being attributed to Bhasa. They also 
are not faultless ; but what appeals most to a student of the 
Sanskrit drama in these, as well as in the other plays, is_tbk, 
irec ty 

_ which are points often neglected in the normal 

Sanskrit drama in favour of poetical excursions, sentimental 
excesses and r het or ' ical _e mbej II i s h m en t.a*. The number of characters 
appearing never worries our author, but the stage is never 
overcrowded by the rich variety ; and, while most of the major 
characters are painted with skill and delicacy, the minor ones are 
not, normally, neglected/ There is considerable inventive 
power ; and even if the constructive ability is not always 
praiseworthy, the swift and smooth progress of the plot is seldom 
hindered by the profusion of descriptive and emotional stanzas, 
and monostichs are freely employed. There is no lack of 
craftsmanship in transforming a legend or an epic tale into a 
drama, and daring modifications are introduced, although it may 
be admitted that the craftsmanship is not always admirable, nor 
the modifications always well judged. The style and diction are 
clear and forcible, but not uncouth or inelegant; they have little 


of the succulence and ' slickness ' of the ornate Kavya. Even a 
casual reader will not fail to notice that the dramas do not 
possess elaborate art and polish of the standard type, but that 
there is, without apparent effort, vigour and liveliness of a rare 
kind. The plays defy conventional rules, and even conventional 
expression, but are seldomjacking in dramatic moments and 
situations. Perhaps a less enthusiastic judgment would find 
that most of the plays are of a somewhat prosaic cast, and miss 
in them the fusing and lifting power of a poetic imagination ; 
but it would be unjust to deny that they possess movement, 
energy and vividness of action, as well as considerable skill of con- 
sistent characterisation. There is nothing primitive in their art, 
on the one hand, and nothing of dazzling excellence, on the 
other, but there is an unadorned distinction and dignity, as well 
as an assurance of vitality. Even after deductions are made from 
exaggerated estimates, much remains to the credit of the author 
or authors of the plays. Whether all the aberrations, weaknesses 
and peculiarities indicate an embryonic stage of art, or* an 
altogether different dramatic tradition, or perhaps an individual 
trait, is not definitely known ; nor is it certain that all or any 
one of these plays really belong to Bhasa and to a period of 
comparative antiquity ; nor, again, can we determine the extent 
and nature of the recast to which they were submitted ; but what 
is still important to consider is that here we have, at least in some 
of the fascinating plays like Svapna and PratijM, a dramatist 
or dramatists of real power, whose unlaboured, but not forceless, 
art makes a direct and vitally human appeal. The deficiencies 
are patent, and a critic with a tender conscience may feel 
inclined to justify them ; but they need not diminish or obscure 
the equally patent merits. The dramas have wrestled with and 
conquered time ; and even if we cannot historically fit them in, 
they have an unmistakable dramatic, if not poetic, quality, and 
this would make them deserve a place of their own in the history 
of the Sanskrit drama. 



Of Kalidasa's immediate predecessors we know little, and 
with the doubtful exception of the plays ascribed to Bhasa, we 
know still less of their works. Yet, it is marvellous that the 
Kavya attains its climax in him and a state of perfection which 
is never parallelled in its later history. If A6vaghoa prepared 
the way and created the new poetry and drama, he did not finish 
the creation ; and the succession failed. In the interval of three 
or four centuries we know of other kinds of literary effort, but we 
have little evidence of the type which would -explain the finished 
excellence of Kalidasa's poetry. It must have been a time of 
movement and productiveness, and the employment of ornate 
prose and verse in the Gupta inscriptions undoubtedly indicates 
the flourishing of the Kavya ; but nothing striking or decisive in 
poetry or drama emerges, or at least survives. What impresses 
us in Kalidasa's works is their freedom from immaturity, but this 
freedom must have been the result of prolonged and diverse 
efforts extending over a stretch of time. In Kalidasa we are 
introduced at once to something new which no one hit upon 
before, something perfect which no one achieved, something 
incomparably great and enduring for all time. His outstanding 
individual genius certainly accounts for a great deal of this, but 
it appears in a sudden and towering glory, without being 
buttressed in its origin by the intelligible gradation of lower 
eminences. It is, however, the effect also of the tyrannical domi- 
nance of a great genius that it not only obscures but often wipes 
out by its vast and strong effulgence the lesser lights which 
surround it or herald its approach. 


Of the predecessors of whom Kalidasa himself speaks, or of 
the contemporaries mentioned by legends, we have very little 
information. There are also a few poets who have been confused, 
identified or associated with Kalidasa ; they may have been con- 
temporaries or immediate successors. Most of these, however, are 
mere names, and very scanty and insignificant works have been 
ascribed to them by older tradition or by more modern guess-work. 
Of these, the only sustained w 7 ork is that of Pravarasena whose 
date is unknown, but who may have reigned in Kashmir in the 
5th century A.D. 1 He wrote the Setu-bandha or Ratana-vadha' 2 
in fifteen cantos, but if it is in Prakrit, it is obviously aiodelled on 
the highly artificial Sanskrit Kavya. The anthologies, 3 however, 
assign to him three Sanskrit stanzas, but they are hardly 
remarkable. Kahlana (ii-16) mentions Camlraka or Candaka as 
a composer of dramas under Tunjina of Kashmir; but of him and 
his work nothing is known, excepting small fragments preserved 
by Srivara in his Subhasitavali; and the identity of this dramatist 
with the Buddhist grammarian Candragoniin, who also composed 
a drama (now preserved in Tibetan and entitled Lokananda) is 
extremely hypothetical. Of Matrgupta, who is said to 
have been Pravarasena's predecessor on the throne of Kashmir, 
and who may or may not be identical with dramaturgist 
Matrguptacarya, 4 nothing remains except two stanzas contextually 
attributed by the Kashmirian Kahlana in his Kaja-taraiigiy/i 

1 See Peterson in Sbhv t pp. 60-61. But Stein in his translation of the Raja-tar ahgini, 
i, pp. 66, 84 f, would place Pravarasena II as late as the second half of the 6th century. The 
ascription of the Kauntalefoara-dautya to Kalidasa by Ksemendra and Bhoja is used to show 
that Pravarasena, as the Vakat-aka ru'er of Kuntula, was a contemporary of Kalidasa, but it 
is only an unfounded conjecture. 

8 Ed, 8. Goldschmidt, with German trs (and word index by P. Goldschmidt), Strassburg 
and London 1880,1884; ed, Sivadatta and K. P. Parab. with Skt. comm. of Ramadfcsa, 
NSP, Bombay 1895. 

3 Kus. introd,, pp. 64-55. 

4 8. K. De, Sanskrit Poetics, i, p. 32; fragments of this writer have been collected from 
citations in later works and published by T. R. Ohintamanj in the Journal of Oriental 

Hetearch, Madras, U (1928), pp. 118-28. 



(iii. 181, 252), 1 and one by another "Kashmirian, Kgemendra, 
in his Aucitya-vicara-carca (ad 22). Matrgupta, himself a 
poet, is said to have patronised Mentha or Bhartraentha, 
whose Hayagrlva-vadha elicited royal praise and reward. The 
first stanza of this work, in Sloka, is quoted by Ksemendra, 
as well as by some commentators and anthologists, 4 but it is 
obviously too inadequate to give an idea of the much lauded 
lost poem. Tradition associates Enlidaea also with Ghatakarpara 
and Vetfilabbatta. It has been suggested K that Ghatakarpara may 
be placed even earlier than Kalidasa ; but the laboured composition 
of twenty-four stanzas, which passes under his name, hardly 
deserves much notice. It reverses the motif of the Mcgha-duta 
by making a love-lorn woman, in the rainy season, send a 
message to her lover, and aims chiefly at displaying skill in the 
verbal trick of repeated syllables, known as Yamaka, exclusively 
using, however, only one variety of it, namely, the terminal. It 
employs a variety of metres, 7 but shows little poetic talent. Nor 

1 Those are also giveu as Matrgnpba's in Sbhv, nos. 3181 and 2550. It is curious that 
the fast stanza is assigned to Karpatika by Ksemendra (Attcilya-vicara ad 15). 

* Kahlana, iii. 125 f, 260*62. The word mentlia means an elephant-driver, and this mean- 
ing is referred to in a complimentary verse in Sml 1*1.61). The poet is sometimes called 
Hastipaka. Mankhaka (ii. 53) places Mentha as a poet in the same rank with Bharavi, 
Subandhu, and Bana; Sivasvamin (xx. 47) equals him with Kalidasa and Dandin ; while 
Rajasekbara thinks that Valmiki re-incarnated as Mentha I 

3 Suvrtta-tilaka ad iii. 16. The poem is also mentioned in Kuntaka's Vakrokti-jivita 
(ed. S. K. De, Calcutta 1928, p. 243), and in the Naiya-darpana of Eamacandra and Guna- 
candra (ed. GOS, Baroda 1920, p. 174). 

4 Peterson, op. cit , pp. 92-94. Small fragments are preserved in Srlvara's Subhasitavali, 
nos 203-204. 

5 H. Jacobi, Das Ramdyana, p. 125 note. Jacobi relies mainly on the wager offered by 
the poet at the close that he would carry water in a broken pitcher for any one who would 
surpass him in the weaving of Yarnakas ; hut the poern may have been anonymous, and the 
author's name itself may have had a fictitious origin from the wager itself The figure 
Yamaka, though deprecated by Inandivardhana, is old, being comprehended by Bharata, 
and need not of itself prove a late date for the poem. 

6 Ed. Haeberlin in Kavya-samgraha, p. 120 f, which is reprinted by Jivananda Vidya- 
sagar in his Kavya samgraha, I, Calcutta 1886, p. 357-66; ed. with a Skt. comm. by G. M. 
Durscb, Berlin 1828, with German verse trs. 

7 Sundarl.-Vasantatilaka, Aupacchandasika, Rathoddhata, Pufpitagra, Upajati and 
Drutavilambita, among which Rathoddhala predominates, 


is there much gain if we accept the attribution to this poet of the 
NUi-sara, 1 which is simpler in diction but which is merely a 
random collection of twenty-one moralising stanzas, also com- 
posed in a variety of metres. 2 Of the latter type is also the 
Nlti-pradipa a of sixteen stanzas, which is ascribed to Vetala- 
bhatta ; but some of the verses of this shorter collection are 
indeed fine specimens of gnomic poetry, which has been much 
assiduously cultivated in Sanskrit. 1 

The doubtful poems of Kalidasa, which comprise some 
twenty works form an interesting subject, but no serious or com- 
plete study "has yet been made of them. Some of them, such as 
the elaborate Yamaka-kfivya, called the Nalodaya* in four cantos, 
and the slight RakMisa-kavyn 1 ' in some twenty stanzas, are now 

1 FM ITaeberlm, op. cit. t p. 504 f ; Jivanant'U, o/>. ctt., pp. 371-80. 

2 rpijfiti, $nrdiiiavikridita, Rhujarigapravnta, &loka, Vrm<taatha\ila, Vusantatilaka, 
Mamlakianta, the Sioka piednminating. Some of the stanza^ are fine, but they recur in 
other works and collections. 

3 Ed. Haebetlin, op. at., p. 5'2fi f ; Jivnnand.i, op. at., pp. 366-72. The metres used are 
ITpajati, \ 7 aK;ntatilaka, SardiiiavikiTdiU, Dnitaviiambita, Vamsasthavila, Mandakranta and 

4 .iriku is also regarded as a contemporary of Kalidasa. He cannot be identical with 
Surikuka, whom Kahlana mentions as the author of the Bhucanabhyndaya, a poem now 
1< st : for he belongs to the time Ajitaplda of Kashmir (about N13-16A.D.); see S. K. De, 
Sanskrit Poetics, i, p. 38. Sarikuka is also cited in the Anthologies, in one of whicb he is 
called son of Majiira : see Peterscn in Sbhv, p. 1'27 and G. P. Quackenbos, Poems of Maytira, 
pp. TO.5'2. Perhaps to this Sankuka, cited as Am t atya ^ankuka, is also attributed a drama, 
e -titled Citrotpalalambitalta Prakarana, from which a passage is quoted in the Natya- 
darpana of Ramacandra and Ounarandra (p. 86). 

5 Kd. with the Subodhinl comm. of the Maithila Piajftakara-tni^ra, and with introd., notes 
uud trs. in Latin by P. Beuary, Berlin 1830; ed. Jngaunath Sukla, with the same comm., 
Calcutta 1870 ; also ed. W. Yates, with metrical Engl. tra., Calcutta 1844. PischeUZDMG, 
LAI, p. 62fi) adduces reasons for ascribing its authorship to Ravideva, son of Narayana 
and author probably also of the Rak&asa-larya. With this view R. G. Bbandarkar (Report, 
1883-84, p. Ifi) Agrees. Ravideva's date is unknown, but Peterson (JBHAS, XVII, 
1887, p. 69, note, corrected in Three Reports. 1887, p. 20 f) states that a commentary 
on the Nalodoya is d ited in Samvat 1664 = 1608 A.D. But A. R. Ramauatha Ayyar ( JRAS t 
1925, p. 263) holds that the author of the Nalodaya was a Kerala poet, named Vasudeva, son 
of Ravi, who lived in the court of Kuln5ekhara and his successor Rama in the first half of the 
9th century (?), and wrote also another Yamoka-k^vya, Ymlhivthira.vijaya (ed. NSP, Bombay 
1897) and an unpublished alliterative poem tailed Tripura-dahana : see below under ch. vi. 

6 Ed. A. Hoefer in Sanskrit Lesebuch, Berlin 1819; ed. K. P. Parab, NSP, Bombay 1890, 
1900; also in Jivananda, op, cit,, III, pp, 343-53; tra, by P. Belloni-Pilippi ia GSAI, XIX, 

16 1848B 


definitely known to be wrongly ascribed ; but it is possible that 
some of the Kalidasa Apocrypha belongs to his contemporaries 
and followers. A more serious claim for Kalidasa's authorship 
is made for the Rtu-sarrihara 1 as a youthful production of the 
poet. It has been contested, however, that the poem may be 
young, but not with the youth of Kalidasa. The Indian 
tradition on the question is uncertain ; for while it is popularly 
ascribed, Mallinatha, who comments on the other three poems of 
Kalidasa, ignores it 2 ; and the artistic conscience of Sanskrit 
rhetoricians did not accept it, as they did the other three poems, 
for purposes of illustration of their rules ; nor is any citation 
from it found in the early anthologies. !{ The argument that the 
poem is an instance of Kalidasa's juvenilia 4 and is, therefore, not 
taken into account by commentators, anthologists and rhetori- 
cians, ignores niceties of stylo, and forgets that the poem does 
not bear the obvious stigmata of the novice. ft The Indian literary 
sense never thought it fit to preserve immaturities. The work is 
hardly immature in the sense that it lacks craftsmanship, for its 

1906, pp. 83 f. It is sometimes called Buddhiuncda ov Yid\ad\inoda Kavya, a text of which ia 
published by D. R. Hacked in lHQ t XIII, 1936, p. 692 f ; see 8. K. De in 1HQ, XIV, 
pp. 17^-76. There is a poet named Eaksasa or Raksasa Pamlita, cited respectively in Skm 
(i. 90.5) aod SP (nos. 3810-11), although the stanzas in the anthologies are not taken from the 
poem. P. K. Gode (Journal of Indian Hist., XIX, 1940, pp. 812-19) puts the lower limit of 
the date of the Rak^asa-Jtdvya at 1000 A. D. on the strength of the date 1159 A.D. of a 
Jaina commentary on it. 

1 Ed. \V. Jones, Calcutta 1792 (reproduced in fasc, hy H. Kreyenbor^r, Hannover 1924) ; 
ed. with a Latin and German metrical UP. by P. von Bohlec, Leipzig 1840 ;cd. W. L. 
Pansikar, \vith the comm. of Manirama, NSP, Bombay, 6th ed. 1922 (1st ed. 1906). 

2 Mallinalha at the outset of his commentary on Rag1m t speaks of only thiee Kavyaa of 
Kalidasa on which he himself comn ents. 

3 Excepting four stanzas in Sbliv, of which ncs. 1674, 1078 (=pts vi. 16, 19) are 
assigned expressly to Kalidasa, and nos. 1703, 1704 ( fits i. 18, 20) are cited with kayor api. 
But on the 9omposite text of this anthology, which renders its tesiimor.y doubtful, see S. K. De 
in J ^5,1927, pp. 109-10. 

< Hillebrandt, Kalidasa, Breslau 1921, p. 66 f ; Keith in JRAS, 1912, pp. 1066-70, JRAS, 
1913, pp. 410-412, HSL t pp. 82-84; J. Nobel in ZDMQ, LXVI, 1912, pp. 275-82, 
LXXIII, 1919, p. 194 f and JRAS, 1913, pp. 401-10; Harichand Sastri, I/Art potti^e de 
Vlnde (Paris 1917), pp. 24042. 

5 B, B. Johnston, introd, to Buddha-carita, p. Ixxxi. 


descriptions are properly mannered and conventional, even if 
they show some freshness of observation and feeling for nature ; 
its peculiarities and weaknesses are such as show inferior literary 
talent, and not a mere primitive or undeveloped sense of style. 1 It 
has been urged that Vatsabhatti in his Mandasor inscription 
borrows expressions and exploits two stanzas of the Rtu-samhara. 
The indebtedness is much exaggerated, 2 but even if it is accepted, 
it only shows the antiquity of the poem, and not Kalidasa's 
authorship. If echoes of Kalidcisa's phrases and ideas are trace- 
able (e.g. ii. 10), they are sporadic and indicative of imitation, 
for there is nowhere any suggestion of Kalidasa as a whole. 8 The 
poem is, of course, not altogether devoid of merit ; otherwise 
there would not have been so much controversy. It is not a bare 
description, in six cantos, of the details of the six Indian seasons, 
nor even a Shepherd's Calender, but, a highly cultured picture of 
the seasons viewed through the eyes of a lover. In a sense it has 
the same motif as is seen in the first part of the Megha-duta ; but 
the treatment is different, and there is no community of character 
between the two poems. It strings together rather conventional 
pictures of kissing clouds, embracing creepers, the wildly rushing 
streams and other tokens of metaphorical amorousness in nature, 
as well as the effect and significance of the different seasons for 
the lover. It shows Hashes of effective phrasing, an easy flow of 
verse and sense of rhythm, and a diction free from elaborate 
complications, but the rather stereotyped descriptions lack rich- 
ness of content and they are not blended sufficiently with human 

1 This would rather rule out the suggestion that inasmuch as it shares some of Aeva- 
ghosa'* weaknesses, it is a half -way house between A6vaghos.a and Kalidasa. 

2 Cf. G. K, Nandargikar, Kumaradasa, Poona 1908, p. xxvi, note. 

3 Very pertinently Keiih calls attention to Kalidasa's picture of spring in Kumdra iii and 
Raghu* ix, and of summer in Raghu xvi (10 which scattered passages from the di aortas can also 
be added); but the conclusion he draws that they respectively show the*(leveloped and undeve- 
loped style of the same poet is a matter of. personal preference rather than of literary 


Unlike later Sanskrit poets, who are often confident self- 
puffers, Kaliclasa expresses modesty and speaks little of himself. 
The current Indian anecdotes about him are extremely stupid, 
and show that no clear memory remained of him. He is one 
of the great poets who live and reveal themselves only in 
their works. His date, and even approximate time, is at 
worst uncertain, at best conjectural. His works have been 
ransacked for clues, but not very successfully ; but since 
they bear general testimony to a period of culture, ease and 
prosperity, they have been associated with the various great 
moments of the Gupta power and glory. The hypotheses and 
controversies on the subject need not occupy us here, 1 for 
none of the theories are final, and without further and more 
definite material, no convincing conclusion is attainable. 
Let it suffice to say that v sinee Kalidasa is mentioned as a 
poet of great reputation in the Aihole inscription of 034 
A.I)., and since he. probably knows Asvagbosa's works and 
shows a much more developed form and sense of style (a 
position which, however, has not gone unchallenged), " the 
limits oi his time are broadly fixed between the 2nd and the 
Oth century A.D. Since his works reveal the author as a 
man of culture juid urbanity, a leisured artist probably 
enjoying, as the legends any, royal patronage under a 

1 The literature on the subject, which i tliscuBseu 1 tbtfadbarc without yielding am 
definite result, is bulky and still growing. The various views, however, will he found in the 
following : G Huth, Die Zeit dex Kalidaw Idiss.), Berlin J890; B Liebich, Duv Datum des 
Cundruyomin's und Kalidtisa's, Breslau 1003, p. 28, an I in Indoycrni. Fonchungcn t XXXl, 
1912-13, p. 198 f; A. Gawronski, The Diyvijaya o/ Raghn, Krakau 1914-15; Hillebrandt, 
Kalidasa, Breslau 1921; Pathak in JBRAS, XTX, 1895, pp 35-43 and int-od. to Meghn-duta ; 
Koith in J RAS, 1901, p. 578, 1905, p. 575, 1909, p. 433, Ind. Office Cat., Vol. 2, pt. ii, 
p. 1201, SD, p. 143f ; also references cited in Winternitz, Jf/LJII, p. 40 f. P. W. Thomas, 
in JRAS t 1918, pp. 118-22, makea an attempt to revive the Dinnaga legend 

2 See Nandurgikar, introd. to Raghu 9 ; Kshetrcsh Chattopadhyay in Allahabad 
Univ. Studies, IT,* p. 80 f; K G. Sankar in IHQ, I, p 312 f To argue that A6va- 
gbost is later than Kalidasa is to preaurne, without t-ufficiei.t reason, a retrogressive 
phase in literary evolution. 


Vikraixmditya, 1 it is not unnatural to associate him with 
Candragupta II (cir. 380-413 A.D.), who had the style of 
Vikramaditya, and whose times were those of prosperity and 
power. The various arguments, literary and historical, by 
which the position is reached, are not invulnerable when 
they are taken in detail, but their cumulative effect cannot 
be ignored. We neither know, nor shall perhaps ever know, 
if any of the brilliant conjectures is correct, but in the 
present state of our knowledge, it would not be altogether 
unjustifiable to place him roughly at 400 A.D. it is not 
unimportant to know that Kalidasa shared the glorious and 
varied living and learning of a great time ; but he might not 
have done this, and yet be the foremost poet of Sanskrit 
literature. That he had a wide acquaintance with the life 
and scenes of many parts of India, but had a partiality for 
Ujjayini, may be granted ; but it would perhaps be hazard- 
ous, and even unnecessary, to connect him with any 
particular geographical setting or historical environment. 

Kfilidasa's works are not only singularly devoid of all 
direct personal reference, but .they hardly show his poetic 
genius growing and settling itself in a gradual grasp of 
power. Very few poets have shown a greater lack of ordered 
development. Each of his works, including his dramas, has 
its distinctive characteristics in matter and manner ; it is 
hardly a question of younger or older, better or worse, but 
of difference of character and quality, of conception and 
execution. All efforts, 2 therefore, to arrive at a relative 

1 8. P. Pandit (Preface to liagliu*) admits this, but believes that there is 
nothing in Kalidasa's works that renders untenable (he tradition whMi assigns him to 
the age of the Vikramaditya of the Samvat era, i.e., to the first century B. C. The 
view baa been developed in some recent writings, but the arguments are hardly 

2 Huth attempts to ascertain a relative chronology on the basis of metres, but 
Kalidasa is too finished a metrist to render any conclusion probable on metrical evidence 
alooe; see Keith's effective criticism in SD, p. 167. That Kumara* and Megka* 
are both redolent of love and youth and Raghu* is mature and meditative, is not a 


chronology of his writings have not proved very successful, 
and it is not necessary to indulge in pure guess-work and 
express a dogmatic opinion. 

The Kumara-sambhava 1 is regarded as one of Kalidasa's 
early, works, but it is in its own way as admirably conceived 
and expressed as his other poems. To the extent to which 
it has survived, it does not, however, complete its theme, a 
defect which it shares with the Raghu-vama 9 also apparently 
left incomplete. The genuineness of the first seven cantos 
of. the Kumara-sambhava is beyond doubt ; but it brings the 
narrative down to the marriage of Siva and Parvati, and the 
promise of the title, regarding the birth of the Kumara, is not 
fulfilled. Probably canto viii is also genuine ; along with the 
first seven cantos, it is commented upon by Mallinatha and 
Arunagiri, and is known to writers on Poetics, who somewhat 
squeamishly censure its taste iu depicting the love-sports of 
adored deities ; 2 it also possesses Kfilidasa's characteristic style 
and diction. The same remarks, however, do not apply to 
the. rest of the poem (ix-xvii) as we have it now. These 

criterion of sufficiently decisive character. The dramas also differ in quality and 
character of workmanship, but it is pure conjecture lo infer from this fact their earlineea 
or lateness. Similar remarks apply to the elaborate attempt of R. D. Earmarkar in 
Proc. Second Orient. Conference, Calcutta 1928, pp. 239-47. It must be said that the 
theories are plausible; but their very divergence from one another shows that the 
question is incapable of exact determination. 

1 Ed. A. F. Stenzler, with Latin trs. (i-vii, London 1838) ; ed. T. Ganapati Saatri, 
with comm. of Arunagiri ind Narayana li-viii), Trivandrutn Skt. Ser. 1913-14. cantos viii-xvii 
first published in Pandit, Old Series, MI, by Vitthala Sastri, 1866. Also ed. N. B. 
Parvanikar, K. P. Paraband W. L. Pansikar, with oornm. of Mallinatha (i-viii) and Sitarama 
(ix-xvii\ MSP, 5th ed., Bombay 1908 (10th ed. 1927); ed. with comrn. of Mallinatha, Caritra- 
vardhana and Sitarama, Gujrati Printing Press, Bombay 1898. Eng* trs. by R. T. H. Griffith, 
2nd ed., London 1879. It has been translated into many other languages, and edited many 
times in India. The NSP ed. contains in an Appendix Mai Hnatha's comm. on canto viii, 
which is accepted as genuine in some South Inlian manuscripts and editions (see India 
Office Cat , vii, p. 1419, no. 8764). 

2 For a summary of the opinions, see Harichaud Sistri, Kdliddsa et I' Art 
pottique de VInde, Paris 1917, p. 235 f. 


cantos probably form a supplement 1 composed by some later 
zealous admirer, who not only insists upon the birth of Kuraara 
but also brings out the motive of his birth by describing his 
victory over the demon Taraka. It is unbelievable that Kalidasa 
abruptly left off his work ; possibly he brought it to a proper 
conclusion ; but it is idle to speculate as to why the first seven or 
eight cantos only survived. The fact remains that the authenti- 
city of the present sequel has not been proved. 

Nevertheless, apart from the promise of the title, these 
genuine cantos present a finished and unified picture in 
itself. The theme is truly a daring one in aspiring to 
encompass the love of the highest deities ;. but, unlike the 
later Greek poets to whom the Homeric inspiration was lost, 
the Sanskrit poets never regard their deities as playthings of 
fancy. Apart from any devotional significance which may be 
found, but which Kalidasa, as a poet, never emphasised, the 
theme was a living reality to him as well as to his audience; 
and its poetic possibilities must have appealed to his 

1 Jacob! in Verhandl d. V Orient. Knngress, Berlin 1881, JT. 2, pp. 133-5<>; 
Weber in ZDMG, XXVTT, p. 174 f and in Jnd. Slreifen, 111, pp. 217 f., 211 f. The argu- 
ments turn chiefly on the silence of the commentators and rhetoricians, and on 
grammatical and stylistic evidence, which need not be summarised here. Although the 
intrinsic evidence of taste, style and treatn ent is at best an unsafe guide, no studpnl 
of Sanskrit literature, alive to literary niceties, will deny the obvious inferiority of the 
supplement. The extreme rarity of MSS for these additional cantos is also significant ; and 
we know nothing about the'r source, nor ab ut the source of the commentary of Sltarauaa or 
them (the only notice of a MS occurring in E. L. Mitra, Notices, x, no. 3289, p. 88,. It must, 
however, be admitted that, though an inferior production, the sequel is not devoid of merit 
and there are ech es in it not only fiorn Kalidasa '9 works, hut also lines and phrases whirl 
remind one of later great Kavya-poets. The cnly citation from it in later writings is the or< 
found in Uj.'valadatta'a commentary on the Unddi-sntra, (ed. T. Aufrecht, Bonn 1859, ad iv 
C6, p. 106), where the passage ravali prayalbhahata bheri-iamlhavah ig given as a qirtatioi 
with iti Kumarah (and not Kumare). It occurs a? a variant of Kumara* xiv. 32 in the NSl 
edition ; but it is sad to occur also in Kurna > adasa's Janakl harana, which work, however 
is cited by Ujjvdladatta (iii. 73) by its own name and i ofc by the name of its author. If thii 
is a genuine quotation from the sequel, then the sequelmust have been added at a fairly earlj 
time, at least before the 14th century A.D., unless it is shown that the passage in question is i 
quotation from Kumaradasa and an appropriation by the author of the sequel. The question v, 
re-opened by 8. P. Bhattacbarya in Proceedings of the Fifth Orient. Cow/., Vol. I, pp. 48-14. 


imagination. We do not know exactly from what source 1 Kalidasa 
derived his material, but we can infer from his treatment 
of the Sakuntala legend, that he must have entirely rehnndled 
and reshaped what he derived. The now mythology had life, 
warmth and colour, and brought the gods nearer to human life 
and emotion. The magnificent figure of the divine ascetic, 
scorning love but ultimately yielding to its humanising influence, 
the myth of his temptation leading to the destruction of Kama as 
the emblem of human desire, the story of Uma's resolve to win 
by renunciation what her beauty and love could not achieve by 
their seduction, and the pretty fancy of the coming back of her 
lover, not in his ascetic pride but in playful benignity, this 
poetic, but neither moralistic nor euhcineristic, working up of a 
scanty Purfmic myth in a finished form is perhaps all his own. 
Tf there is a serious purpose behind the poem, it is merged in its 
total effect, ft is, on the other hand, not bare story-telling or 
recounting of a myth; it is the careful work of a poet, whose 
feeling, art and imagination invest his pictures with a charming 
vividness, which is at once finely spiritual and intensely human. 
His poetic powers are best revealed in his delineation of Siva's 
temptation in canto iii, where the mighty effect of the few swift 
words, describing the tragic annihilation of the pretty love-god 
by the terrible god of destruction, is not marred by a single 
word of elaboration, but produces infinite suggestiveness by 
its extreme brevity and almost perfect fusion of sound and 
sense. A fine example also of Kfilidasa's charming fancy and 
gentle humour is to be found in the picture of the jonng 
hermit appearing in Uma's hermitage and his depreciation 
of Siva, which evokes an angry but firm rebuke from Umfi, 
leading on to the hermit's revealing himself as the god of her 

1 The story is told in MalialliSrnta, iii. 225 (Bombay ed.) and Ramdyana i 97, 
known to Agvaghoea in some form, Buddha-writa, i, 88, xiii, 16. 


The theme of the Raghu-vanifa l is much more diversified 
and extensive f and gives fuller scope to Kalidasa's artistic 
imagination. The work has a greater height of aim and range 
of delivery, but has no known predecessor. It is rather a gallery 
of pictures than a unified poem ; and yet out of these pictures, 
which put the uncertain mass of old narratives and traditions into 
a vivid poetical form, Kalidasa succeeds in evolving one of the 
finest specimens of the Indian Mahakavya, which exhibits both 
the diversity and plenitude of his powers. 2 Out of its nineteen 
cantos there is none that does not present some pleasing picture, 
none that does not possess an interest of its own ; and there is 
throughout this long poem a fairly uniform excellence of style and 
expression. There is hardly anything rugged or unpolished any- 
where in Kalidasa, and his works must have been responsible for 
setting the high standard of formal finish which grew out of all 
proportion in later poetry. But he never sacrifices, as later poets 
often do, the intrinsic interest of the narrative to a mere elabora- 
tion of the outward form. There is invariably a fine sense of 
equipoise and an astonishing certainty of touch and taste. In 
the Raghu-vama, Kalidasa goes back to early legends for a 
theme, but it is doubtful if he seriously wishes to reproduce its 
spirit or write a Heldengedicht. The quality of the poem, 
however, is more important than its fidelity to the roughness of 
heroic times in which the scene is laid. Assuming that what he 
2[ives us is only a glorified picture of his own times, the vital 
question is whether he has painted excellent individuals or mere 
abstractions. Perhaps Kalidasa is prone to depicting blameless 
regal characters, in whom a little blatneworthiness had better 

1 Ed. A. P. Stenzler, with a Latin tra., London 1832; ed. with the comm. of Mallin&tha 
y S. P. Pandit, Bombay Skt. Ser.,3 vols., 1869-74, and by G. R. Nandargikar, with English 
rs., 3rd revised ed., Bombay 1897; ed. with comm. of Aruiiagiri and Narfcyana (i-vi), 
langalodaya Press, Trichur, no date. Often edited and translated in parts or as a whole. 

8 The Indian opinion considers the Raghu-va^a to be Kalidasa's greatest poem, so tht 
3 is often cited as the Ra^hukara par excellence. Its popularity is attested by the Caret that 
bout fgrty commentaries on this poem are Unown 


been blended ; but if they are meant to be ideal, they are yet 
clearly distinguished as individuals ; and, granting the environ- 
ment, they are far from ethereal or unnatural. Kalidasa intro- 
duces us to- an old-world legend and to an atmosphere strange 
to us with its romantic charm ; but beneath all that is brilliant 
and marvellous, he is always real without being a realist. 

The earlier part of the Raghu-vama accords well with its 
title, and the figure of Raghu dominates, being supported by the 
episodes of his father Dilipa and his son Aja ; but in the latter 
part Rama is the central figure, similarly heralded by the story 
of DaSaratba and followed by that of Ku6a. There is thus a 
unity of design, but the entire poem is marked by a singularly 
varied handling of a series of themes. We are introduced in 
first canto to the vows and austerities of the childless Dilipa and 
his queen Sudaksina in tending Vasistha's sacred cow and sub- 
mitting to her test, followed by the birth of Raghu as a heavenly 
boon. Then we have the spirited narrative of young Raghu' s 
fight with Indra in defence of his father's sacrificial horse, his 
accession, his triumphant progress as a conqueror, and his 
generosity which threatened to impoverish him, all of which, 
especially his Digvijaya, is described with picturesque brevity, 
force and skill. The next three cantos (vi-viii) are devoted to 
the more tender story of Aja and his winning of the princess 
IndumatI at the stately ceremonial of Svayarpvara, followed, 
after a brief interval of triumph and happiness, by her accidental 
death, which leaves Aja disconsolate and broken-hearted. The 
story of his son Da6aratha's unfortunate hunt, which follows, 
becomes the prelude to the much greater narrative of the joys 
and sorrows of Rama. 

In the gallery of brilliant kings which Kalidasa has painted, 
his picture of Rama is undoubtedly the best ; for here we have 
realities of character which evoke his powers to the utmost. 
He did not obviously wish to rival Valmiki on his own ground, 
but wisely chooses to treat the story in his own way. While 
ftalidasa devotes one capto of nearly a hundred stanzas to the 


romantic possibilities of Rama's youthful career, he next accom- 
plishes the very difficult task of giving, in a single canto of not 
much greater length, a marvellously rapid but picturesque con- 
densation, in Valmlki's Sloka metre, of the almost entire 
Rdmayana up to the end of Kama's victory over Ravana and 
winning back of Sita. But the real pathos of the story of 
Rama's exile, strife and suffering is reserved for treatment in the 
next canto, in which, returning from Lanka, Rama is made to 
describe to Sita, with the redbllective tenderness of a loving heart, 
the various scenes of their past joys and sorrows over which they 
pass in their aerial journey. The episode is a poetical study of 
reminiscent love, in which sorrow remembered becomes bliss^ 
but it serves to bring out Rama's great love for Sita better than 
mere narration or description, a theme which is varied by the 
pictures of the memory of love, in the presence of suffering, 
depicted in the Megha-duta, and in the two lamentations, in differ- 
ent situations, of Aja and Rati. Rama's passionate clinging to the 
melancholy, but sweet, memories of the past prepares us for the 
next canto on Sita's exile, and heightens by contrast -the grief 
of the separation, which comes with a still more cruel blow at 
the climax of their happiness. Kalidasa's picture of this later 
history of Rama, more heroic in its silent suffering than the 
earlier, has been rightly praised for revealing the poet's power of 
pathos at its best, a power which never exaggerates but compress- 
es the infinite pity of the situation in just a few words. The 
story of Rama's son, Kusa, which follows, sinks in interest ; but 
it has a remarkably poetic description of Kusa's dream, in which 
his forsaken capital city, Ayodhya, appears in the guise of a 
forlorn woman and reproaches him for her fallen state. After 
this, two more cantos (xviii-xix) are added, but the motive of 
the addition is not clear. They contain some interesting pictures, 
especially that of Agnivarna at the end, and their authenticity 
is not questioned ; but they present a somewhat colourless account 
of a series of unknown and shadowy kings. We shall never 
know whether Kalidasa intended to bring the narrative down to 


his own times and connect his own royal patron with the dynasty 
of Eaghu ; but the poein comes to an end rather abruptly in the 
form in which we have it. 1 It will be seen from this brief sketch 
that the theme is not one, but many ; but even if the work has 
no real unity, its large variety of subjects is knit together by the 
powers of colour, form and music of a marvellous poetic imagina- 
tion. Objects, scenes, characters, emotions, incidents, thoughts 
all are transmuted and placed in an eternising frame and setting 
of poetry. ' 

The Megha-duta* loosely called a lyric or an elegy, is a much 
smaller monody of a little over a hundred stanzas 3 in the stately 
and melodious Mandakranta metre ; but it is no less characteristic 

1 The last voluptuous king Agnivarna meets with a premature death; but he is not 
childless ; one of the queens with a posthumous child is said to have succeeded. The Puranns 
speak at least of twenty-seven kings who came after Agnivarna, and there is no reason why 
the poem should end here suddenly, but not naturally (see S. P. Pandit, Preface, p. 15 f. 
Hillebrandt, Kalidasa, p. 42 f.). It has been urged that the poet's object is to 
suggest a moral on the inglorious end of a glorious line by depicting the depth to which 
the descendants of the mighty Eaghu sink in a debauched king like Agnivarna, who cannot 
tear himself from the caresses of his women, and who, when his loyal subjects and ministers 
want to have a sight of him, puts out his bare feet through the window for them to worship 1 
Even admitting this as a not unnatural conclusion of the poem, the abrupt ending is still 
inexplicable. C. Eunhan Raja (Annals of Orient. Research, Univ. of Madras, Vol. V, pt. 2, 
pp. 17-40) even ventures to question the authenticity of the entire second half of the Raghu , 
starting with the story of Dadaratba ; but his reasons are not convincing. 

8 The editions, as well as translations in various languages, are numerous. The 
earliest editions are those of H. H. Wilson (116 stanzas) with metrical Eng. trs., Calcutta 
1813 (2nd ed. 1843) ; of J. Gildemeister, Bonn 1841 ; of A. F. Stenzler, Breslau 1874. The chief 
Indian and European editions with different commentaries are : With Vallabhadeva's eomrn., 
ed. E. Hultzsch, London 1911; with Mallinatha's c^rnm., ed. K. P. Parab, NSP, 4th ed., 
Bombay 1881, G. R. Nandargikar, Bombay 1894, and K. B. Pathak, Poona 1894 (2nd 
ed. 1916) (both with Eng. trs.); with Daksinavartanatha's comra., ed. T. Ganapati Sastri, 
Trivandrum 1919; with Purna-sarasvati'scomm., ed. K. V. Krishnamachariar, Srivanl-Vilasa 
Press, Sri ran gam 1900 ; with comm. of Mallinatba and Caritravardhana, ed. Narayan Sastri 
Khiste, Chowkhamba Skt. Ser., Benares 1981. English trs. by Col Jacob, Poooa 1870. For 
an appreciation, see H. Oldenberg, op. cit , p. 217 f. The popularity aud currency of the 
work are shown by the existence of sonce fifty commentaries. 

3 The great popularity of the poem paid the penalty of interpolations, and the total 
number of stanzas vary in different versions, thus : as preserved in Jinasena's Pars'va- 
bhyudaya (latter part of the 8th century) 120, Vallabhsdeva (10th century^ 111, Daksina- 
vartanatha (c. 1200) 110, Mallinatha (14th century) 121, Purnasarasvatl 110, Tibetan 
Tersion 117, Panabokke (Ceylonese version) 118. A concordance is given in Hultzscb, as well 
as a list of spurious stanzas. On text-criticism^ bee in trod, to eds. of Stenzler, Patbak 


of the vitality and versatility of Kalidasa's poetic powers. 
The theme is simple enough in describing the severance and 
yearnings of an imaginary Yaksa from his beloved through a 
curse ; but the selection of the friendly cloud as the bearer of 
the Yaksa's message from Raraagiri to Alaka is a novel, and 
somewhat unreal, device, 1 for which the almost demented condi- 
tion of the sorrowful Yaksa is offered as an apology by the 
poet himself. It is perhaps a highly poetical, but not an un- 
natural, personification, when one bears in mind the noble mass 
of Indian monsoon clouds, which seem almost instinct with life 
when they travel from the southern tropical sky to the snows 
of the Himalayas ; but the unreality of the poem does not end 
there. It has been urged that the temporary character of a very 
brief separation and the absolute certainty of reunion make the 
display of grief unmanly and its pathos unreal. Perhaps the 
sense of irrevocable loss would have made the motif more effect- 
ive ; the trivial setting gives an appearance of sentimentality to 
the real sentiment of the poem. The device of a curse, again^ 
in bringing about the separation a motif which is repeated in 
another form in the AbhijMna-akuntala is also criticised; for 
the breach here is caused not by psychological complications, so 
dear to .modern times. But the predominantly fanciful character 
of Sanskrit poetry recognises not only this as a legitimate means, 
but even departure on a journey, on business as we should say 
to-day ; and even homesickness brings a flood of tears to the 
eyes of grown-up men and women ! 

and Hultzscb ; J. Hertel's review of Hultzscli's ed. in Gdlting. Gelehrie Anzeigen, 1912; 
Macdonell in JRAS, 1913, p. 176 f. ; Harichand, op. cit. t p. 238 f. ; Herman Beckh, Bin 
Beitrag zur Textkritik von Kalidasa's Meghaduta (Bias.), Berlin 1907 (chiefly on the 
Tibetan version). A Sinhalese paraphrase with Eng. trs. published by the T. B. Pdnabokke, 
Colombo 1888. 

1 Bhamaha (i. 42) actually considers this to be a defect. The idea of sending message 
may have been suggested by the embassy of Hanuraat in the Rdmayana (of. st. 104, Pathak*s 
ed.), or of the Swan in the story of Nala in the Maliablulrata. Of. also Kamavilapa J&taka 
(no. 297), where a crow is sent as a messenger by a man in danger to his wife. But the 
treatment is Kalid&sa's own. 


It is, however, not necessary to exaggerate the artistic insuffi- 
ciency of the device ; for, the attitude is different, but not the sense 
of sorrow. If we leave aside the setting, the poem gives a true and 
poignant picture of the sorrow of parted lovers, and in this lies its 
real pathos. It is true that the poem is invested with a highly 
imaginative atmosphere ; it speaks of a dreamland of fancy, its 
characters are semi-divine beings, and its imagery is accordingly 
adapted ; but all this does not negate its very human and 
genuine expression of the erotic sentiment. Its vividness of 
touch has led people even to imagine that it gives a poetic form 
to the poet's own personal experience ; but of this, onfe can never 
be sure. There is little of subjectivity in its finished artistic 
execution, and the lyric mood does not predominate ; but the 
unmistakable warmth of its rich and earnest feeling, expressed 
through the melody and dignity of its happily fitting metre, 
redeems the banality of the theme and makes the poem almost 
lyrical in its effect. The feeling, however, is not isolated, but 
blended picturesquely with a great deal of descriptive matter. 
Its intensity of recollective tenderness is set in the midst of the 
Indian rainy season, than which, as Rabindranath rightly 
remarks, nothing is more appropriate for am atmosphere of 
loneliness and longing ; it is placed also in the midst of splendid 
natural scenery which enhances its poignant appeal. The 
description of external nature in the first half of the poem is 
heightened throughout by an intimate association with human 
feeling, while the picture of the lover's sorrowing heart in the 
second half is skilfully framed in the surrounding beauty of 
nature. A large number of attempts 1 were made in later times to 
imitate the poem, but the Megha-duta still remains unsurpassed 
as a masterpiece of its kind, not for its matter, nor for its des- 
cription, but purely for its poetry. 

Kalidasa's deep-rooted fame as a poet somewhat obscures his 
merit as a dramatist; but prodigal of gifts nature had been to 
him, and his achievement in the dra$a is no less striking. In 

judgment of many, his Abhifflna*akuntala remains his 

! On the DaU-kavyas, see Chintahwan Chakravarbi in IHQ, III, pp. 978-97. 

KiUDISA 135 

greatest work; at the very least, it is considered to be the full- 
blown flower of his genius. Whatever value the judgment may 
possess, it implies that in this work we have a unique alliance of 
his poetic and dramatic gifts, which are indeed not contradictory 
but complementary ; and this fact should be recognised in passing 
from his poems to his plays. His poems give some evidence of 
skilful handling of dramatic moments and situations; but his 
poetic gifts invest his dramas with an imaginative quality which 
prevents them from being mere practical productions of stager 
craft. It is not implied that his dramas do not possess the 
requisite qualities of a stage-play, for his Sakuntala has been of ten 
successfully staged ; but this is not the only, much less the chief, 
point of view from which his dramatic works are to be judged, 
i lays often fail, not for want of dramatic power or stage-qualities, 
but for want of poetry ; they are often too prosaic. It is 
very seldom that both the dramatic and poetic qualities are 
united in the same author. As a dramatist Kalidasa succeeds, 
mainly by his poetic power, in two respects : he is a master of 
poetic emotion which he can skilfully harmonise with character 
and action, and he has the poetic sense of balance and restraint 
which a dramatist must show if he would win success. 

It is significant that in the choice of theme, character and 
situation, Kalidasa follows the essentially poetic bent of his 
genius. 'Love in its different aspects and situations is the 
dominant theme of all his three plays, care-free love in the 
setting of a courtly intrigue, impetuous love as a romantic and 
undisciplined passion leading to madness, and youthful love, at 
first heedless but gradually purified by suffering. In the lyrical 
and narrative poem the passionate feeling is often an end in itself, 
elegant but isolated ; in the drama, there is a progressive deepening 
of the emotional experience as a factor of larger life. It, therefore, 
affords the poet, as a dramatist, an opportunity of depicting its 
subtle moods and fancies in varied circumstances, its infinite range 
and intensity in closeness to common realities. His mastery of 
humour and p^thos^ his wisdom apd humanity, come into play | 


and his great love of life and sense of tears in mortal things inform 
his pictures with all the warmth and colour of a vivid poetic 

The Malavikagniinitra 1 is often taken to be one of Kalidasa's 
youthful productions, but there is no adequate reason for thinking 
that it is his first drjamatic work. The modesty shown in the 
Prologue 2 repeats itself in those of his other two dramas, and 
the immaturity which critics have seen in it is more a question 
of personal opinion than a real fact ; for it resolves itself into a 
difference of form and theme, rather than any real deficiency of . 
power. 8 The Malavika is not a love-drama of the type of the 
Svapna-vasavadatta, to which it has a superficial resemblance, 
Ibut which possesses a far more serious interest. It is a light- 
hearted comedy of court-life in five acts, in which love is a pretty 
game, and in which the hero need not be of heroic proportion, 
nor the heroine anything but a charming and attractive maiden. 
The pity of the situation, no doubt, arises from the fact that 
the game of sentimental philandering is often played at the 
expense of others who are not in it, but that is only an inevitable 
incident of the game. The motif of the progress of a courtly 
love-intrigue through hindrances to royal desire for a lowly 
maiden and its denouement in the ultimate discovery of her 
status as a princess was perhaps not as banal in Kalidasa's 

1 Ed- F. Bollensen, Leipzig 1879; ed. 8. P. Pandit, with comm. of Katayavema 
(c. 1400 A.D.), Bombay Sanak. Ser , 2nd ed.. 1889, and by K. P. Parab, NSP, Bombay 1915. 
Tra. into Englisb by C. H. Tswney, Calcutta 1875 and London 1891 ; into German by Weber, 
Berlin 1856 ; into French by V. Henry, Paris 1889. On Text-criticism see C. Cappeller, Observa* 
tiones ad Kdlidasae Malavikagnimiiram (Diss ),Regimonti 1868; F. Haag, Zur Textkritik und 
Erkllrung von Kalid&xas Malavikagnimitra, Frauenfeld 1872 ; Bollensen in ZDMG, XIII, 
1859, p. 480 f; Weber in ibid., XIV, 1860, p. 261 f ; Jackson in JAOS, XX, p. 343 f (Titne- 
analysis). For fuller bibliography see Sten Konow, op. c/t. p. 63. 

1 If tbe work is called nava, with a reference to far-famed predecessors, the same 
word is used to designate bis Abhijflana-6aktin1a1a, which also modestly seeks the satisfaction 
of the learned as a final test ; and his Vikramorva&ya is spoken of in the same way in the 
Prologue as apurva, with reference to former poets (purva kavi). In a sense, all plays are 
nava and apurva, and no valid inference 1s possible from such descriptions. 

8 Wilson's unfounded doubt about the authorship of the play led to its comparative 
neglect, but Weber and 8. P. Pandit effectively set the doubt* at rest, For a warm eulogy, 
fee V. IJenry, l^es Literatures del 9 Inde, p. 305 f, " 


time 1 as we are wont to think; but the real question is how the 
therne is handled. Neither Agnimitra nor Malavika may appear 
impressive, but they are appropriate to the atmosphere. The 
former is a care-free and courteous gentleman, on whom the 
burden of kingly responsibility sits but lightly, who is no longer 
young but no less ardent, who is an ideal Daksina Nayaka 
possessing a groat capacity for falling in and out of love ; while 
the latter is a faintly drawn ingenue with nothing but good looks 
and willingness to be loved by the incorrigible king-lover. 
The Vidusaka is a more lively character, who takes a greater- 
part in the development of the plot in this play than in the 
other dramas of Kalidasa. The interest of the theme is enhanced 
by the complications of the passionate impetuousity and jealousy 
of the young discarded queen Travail, which is finely shown off 
against the pathetic dignity and magnanimity of the elderly chief 
queen Pharinl. Perhaps the tone and tenor of the play did 
not permit a more serious development of this aspect of the plot, 
but it should not be regarded as a deficiency. The characterisa- 
tion is sharp and clear, and the expression polished, elegant 
and .even dainty. The wit and elaborate compliments, the 
toying and trifling with the tender passion, the sentimental- 
ities arid absence of deep feeling are in perfect keeping with 
the outlook of the gay circle, which is not used to any profounder 
view of life. 2 One need not wonder, therefore, that while war 
is in progress in the kingdom, the royal household is astir with 
the amorous escapades of the somewhat elderly, but youthfully 
inclined, king. Gallantry is undoubtedly the keynote of the 
play, and its joys and sorrows should not be reckoned at a higher 
level. Judged by its own standard, there is nothing immature, 
clumsy or turgid in the drama. If Kalidasa did not actually 

1 The source of the story is not known, but it is clear that Kalidasa owes nothing to 
the Puranic stories. As at. 2 shows, accounts of Agnimitra were probably current and available 
to the poet. 

* K. K. Pisbaroti in Journal of the Annamaki Univ., II, no. 2, p. 193 f., is inclined to 
take the play as a veiled satire on some royal family of the time, if not on Agnimitra himself, 
and would think that the weakness of the opening scene is deliberate. 



originate the type, he must have so stamped it with the impress 
of bis genius that it was, as the dramas of Harsa and Raja^ekhara 
show, adopted as one of the appealing modes of dramatic 
expression and became banalised in course of time. 

j, In the Vikramorvasiya, 1 on the other hand, there is a decided 
weakness in general treatment. The romantic story of the love 
of the mortal king Pururavas and the divine nymph UrvaI is 
old, the earliest version occurring in the Rgveda x. 95 ; but the 
passion and pathos, as well as the logically tragic ending, of the 
ancient , legend 2 is changed, in five acts, into an unconvincing 
story of semi-courtly life with a weak denouement of domestic 
union and felicity, brought about by the intervention of a 
magic stone and the grace of Indra. The fierce-souled spouse, 
la belle dame sans merci of the Rgveda, is transformed into 
a passionate but selfish woman, an elevated type of the 
heavenly courtesan, and later on, into a happy and obe- 
dient wife. The modifying hand of folk-tale and comedy of 
courtly life is obvious ; and some strange incidents and situa- 
tions, like the first scene located in the air, is introduced ; 
but accepting Kalidasa's story as it is, there is no deficiency 
in characterisation and expression. If the figures are strange 
and romantic, they are still transcripts from universal nature. 
Even when the type does not appeal, the character lives. The 

1 Ed. R. Lenz, with Latin notes etc., Berlin 1838; ed. F. Bollensen, St. Petersberg 
1840; ed. Monier Williams, Heitford 1849; ed. 3. P. Pandit and B. H. Arte, with extracts 
fromcomm. of KStayavema and Ranganatha, Bom. Skt. Ser., 3rd ed. 1901 x lst ed. 1879); 
ed. K. P. Parab and M. B. Talang, NSP, with com in. of Bafiganatha, Bombay 
1914 (4th ed.) ; ed. Gbarudev 8astri 9 with comrn. of Kfttayavema, Lahore 1929. Trs. 
into English by B. B. Cowell, Hertford 1851 ; into German by L. Fritze, Leipzig 1880 ; 
into French by P. B. Foucaux, Paris 1861 and 1879. Tbe recension according to Dravidian 
manuscripts is edited by Pfccbel in Monattber. d. kgl preuss. Akad, m Berlin, 1876, p. 609 f. 
For fuller bibliography see Sten Konow, op. cit. t p. 65-66. 

1 Kalidasa's eource, again, is uncertain. The story is retold with the missing details 
in the Satapatha Brdhmana, but the Pur&nic accounts entirely modify it not to its advan- 
tage. The Ftoujmrftpa preserves some of its old rough features, but in the KathZ-sarit- 
t&g&ra and in the Matsya-purana we find it in the much altered form of a folk-tale. The 
latter version closely resembles the one which Kftlidftsa follows, but it is not clear if tbe 
Matiya-pwfya version itself, like tbe Padtna-purcina version of tbe Sakuntala-legend, is 
modelled on K&lidaut's treatment of the 1(07. 


brave and chivalrous Pururavas is sentimental, but as his 
madness shows, he is not the mere trifler of a princely amorist 
like Agnimitra ; while the jealous queen Au^Inari is not a repeti- 
tion of Iravati or Dharim. Although in the fifth act, the 
opportunity is missed of a tragic conflict of emotion between 
the joy of Pururavas in finding his son and his sorrow at the 
loss of Urvai resulting from the very sight of the child, there is 
yet a skilful delineation of Kalidasa's favourite motif of the 
recognition of the unknown son and the psychological climax 
of presenting the offspring as the crown of wedded love. There 
are also features in the drama which are exceptional in the whole 
range of Sanskrit literature, and make it rise above the decorum 
of courtly environment. The fourth act on the madness of 
Pururavas is unique in this sense. The scene is hardly drama- 
tic and has no action, but it reaches an almost lyric height in 
depicting the tumultuous ardour of undisciplined passion. It is 
a fantasy in soliloquy, in which the demented royal lover, as he 
wanders through the woods in search of his beloved, demands 
tidings of his fugitive love from the peacock, the cuckoo, the 
flamingo, the bee, the elephant, the boar and the antelope ; he 
deems the cloud, with its rainbow, to be a demon who has borne 
his beauteous bride away ; he searches the yielding soil softened by 
showers,, which may perchance, if she had passed that way, have 
retained the delicate impression of her gait, and may show some 
vestige of the red tincture of her dyed feet. The whole scene is 
melodramatically conceived ; and if the Prakrit verses are 
genuine, 1 they are apparently meant to be sung behind the 
scenes. The stanzas are charged with exuberance of emotion 

1 The authenticity of the Prakrit verses has been doubted, chiefly on the ground that the 
Apabhramga of the type found in them is suspicious iu a drama of such early date, and that 
they are not found in the South Indian recension of the text. The Northern recension 
calls the drama a Tro^aka, apparently for the song-element in the verses, but according 
to the South Indian recension, it conforms generally to the essentials of a Nataka. See U. N. 
Upadhye, introd. to Para watma-p raft Wa (Bombay 1987), p. 56, note, who arguf a in favour 
of the genuineness of the ApabhrarpSa verses. 


and pl$y of fancy, but we have nothing else which appeals in 
the drama but the isolation of individual passion. The inevi- 
tctble tragedy of such a love is obvious ; and it is a pity that the 
play is coptinued after the natural tragic climax is reached, even 
at the cost of lowering the heroine from her divine estate and 
making Ipdra break his word ! 

That the AbhijMna-fakuntala l is, in every respect, the most 
finished of Kalidasa's dramatic compositions, is indicated by 
the almost universal feeling of genuine admiration which it 
has always evoked. The old legend of Sakuntaia, incorporated 
in the Adiparvan of the Mahabharata, or perhaps some version 
of it, 2 must have suggested the plot of this drama ; but the 
difference between the rough and simple epic narrative and 
Kalidasa's refined and delicate treatment of it at once reveals his 
distinctive ^dramatic genius. The shrewd, straightforward and 
taunting girl of the Epic is transformed into the shy, dignified 
and pathetic heroine, while the selfish conduct of her practical 
lover in the Epic, who refuses to recognise her out of policy, is 
replaced by an irreprehensible forgetfulness which obscures his 

* The earliest edition (Bengal Recension) is tbat by A. L. Cbfoy, Paris 1830. The 
drama exists in four recensions : (i) DevanagarT, ed. 0. Bdhtlingk, Bonn 184-2, but with better 
materials, ed. Monier Williams, 2nd ed,, Oxford 1876 list ed. 1853) ; with coium. of Raghava- 
bbatta, ed. N. B. Qodbole and K. P. Parab, NSP, Bombay 1883, 1922. (it) Bengali, ed. R. 
Pifcchel, Kiel 1877; 2nd ed. in Harvard Orient. Ser., revised by 0. Cappeller, Cambridge Mass. 
1922. (w) K&6mIM, ed. K. Burkhard, Wien 1884. (it?) South Indian, no critical edition ; but 
printed with comtn. of Abhirama, Sri Van! Vilasa Press, Srirangam 1917, etc. Attempts 
to reconstruct the text, by C. Cappeller (Kurzere Textform), Leipzig 1909, and by 
P. N. Patankar (called Purer Devanagarl Text), Poona 1902* But no critical edition, 
Utilising all the recensions, has jet been undertaken. The earliest English trs. by William 
Jones, London 1790 ; but trs. have been numerous in various languages. On Text- 
criticism, see Pischel, De Kalidfaae Caliuntali recensionibus (Diss.), Breslau 1872 and 
Die Rezensionen der Cakuntala, Breslau 1875; A. Weber, Die Recensionen der Sakuntala 
*in Ind. Studien t XIV, pp. 86-69, 161-311; Hariohand Sastri, op. ctt., p. 248 f. For 
fuller bibliography, see Sten Konow, op. cit., pp. 68*70, and M. Schuyler in JAOS, 
XXlIi p. 237 f. 

9 $ha Padma-Pur&na version is perhaps a recast of Kalidasa's story, and there is no 
reason to think (Win tern Hz, 0/L, III, p. 21&) tbat Kalidasa derived his material from the 
Purai^a, or from some earlier version of it. Haradatta Bar ma, K&lidfaa dnd the 
a, Calcutta 1925, follows Winternitz. 

rULlDASA lil 

love. A dramatic motive is thereby supplied, and tbe prosaic 
incidents and characters of the original legend are plastically 
remodelled into frames and shapes of beauty. Here we see to 
its best effect Kalidasa's method of unfolding a character, as $ 
flower unfolds its petals in rain and sunshine ; there is no 
melodrama, no lame denouement, to mar the smooth, measured 
and dignified progress of tbe play ; there is temperance in the 
depth of passion, and perspicuity and inevitableness in action 
and expression ; but, above all this, the drama surpasses by its 
essential poetic quality of style and treatment. 

Some criticism, however, has been levelled against the 
artificial device of the curse and the ring, 1 which brings in an 
clement of chance and incalculable happening in the development 
of the plot. It should be recognised, however, that the psycho- 
logical evolution of action is more or less, a creation of the 
modern drama. The idea of destiny or divinity shaping our 
ends, unknown to ourselves, is not a peculiarly Indian trait, but 
is found in ancient drama in general ; and the trend has been 
from ancient objectivity to modern subjectivity. 2 Apart from 
judging a method by a standard to which it does not profess 
to conform, it cannot also be argued that there is an inherent 
inferiority in an external device as compared with the 

1 Criticised severely, for instance, by H. Oldenberg in Die Lit. d. alien Indiert, p. 261. 
The curse of Candabhargava and tbe magic ring in tbe Avi-inaraka, wbich have a different 
purpose, have only a superficial similarity, and could not have been Kalidasa's source of tbe 
idea. On tbe curse of a sage as a motif in story and drama, see L, H. Gray in WZKM, 
XVIII, 1904, pp. 53-54. The ring-motif is absent in the Mahabharata, but P. E. Pavolini 
(G&tF, XIX, 1906, p. 376; XX, p. 297 f.) finds a parallel in Jataka no. 7. It is perhaps 
an old Indian story-motif. 

8 C. E. Vaughan, Types of Tragic Drama, London 1908, p. 8 f. On the idea of Destiny 
iu ancient and modern diama, see W. Macneille Dixoo, Tragedy , London 1924, pp. 35-46. 
The device of tbe Ghost as the spirit of revenge in Euripides* Hecuba and Seneca's Thyestes 
is also external, although it was refined in the Elizabethan drama, especially in Shakespeare. 
The supernatural machinery in both Macbeth and Hamlet may be conceived as hallucination 
projected by the active minds in question, but it stilt has an undoubted influence on the 
development of tbe plot of the respective plays, which can be regarded as dramas of a mm 
at oJds with fate. 


complication created by the inner impetus, to which we 
are in the present day more accustomed, perhaps too 
superstitiously. It is not really a question of comparative 
excellence, but of the artistic use which is made of a particular 
device. It is true that in Kalidasa's Abhijftana-sakuntala, the 
dramatic motive comes from without, but it is effectively utilised, 
and the drama which is enacted within and leads to a crisis is 
not thereby overlooked. The lovers arc betrayed also by what 
is within, by the very rashness of youthful love which reaps as 
it sows ; and the^ entire responsibility in this drama is not 
laid on the external agency. Granting the belief of the time, 
there is nothing unreal or unnatural ; it is fortuitous but not 
uninotived. We have here not merely a tragedy of blameless 
hero and heroine; for a folly, or a mere girlish fault, or even 
one's very virtues may bring misfortune. The unriddled ways 
of "life need not always be as logical or comprehensible as one 
may desire; but there is nothing illogical or incomprehensible 
if only Svadhikara-pramada, here as elsewhere, leads to distress, 
and the nexus between act and fate is not wholly disregarded. 
If the conflict, again, between the heart's desire and the world's 
impediment can be a sufficient dramatic motive, it is not of very 
great poetic consequence if the impediment assumes the form of 
a tragic curse, unknown to the persons affected, and plays the 
role of invisible but benevolent destiny in shaping the course of 
action. It is true that we cannot excuse ourselves by arraigning 
Fate, Chance or Destiny; the tragic interest must assuredly be 
built on the foundation of human responsibility ; but at the 
same time a human plot need always be robbed of its mystery, 
and simplified to a mere circumstantial unfolding of cause and 
effect, all in nostra potestate. Fate or Ourselves, in the 
abstract, is a difficult question; but, as in life so in the drama, 
we need not reject the one for the other as the moulder of human 

Much less convincing, and perhaps more misconceived, 
is the criticism that Kalidasa evinces no interest in the great 


problems of human life. As, on the one hand, it would be a 
misdirected effort to find nothing but art for art's sake in 
Kalidasa's work, so, on the other, it would be a singularly 
unimaginative attempt to seek a problem in a work of art and 
turn the poet into a philosopher. It is, however, difficult to 
reconcile the view mentioned above with the well-known eulogy 
of no less an artist than Goethe, who speaks of finding in 
Kalidasa's masterpiece " the young year's blossom and the fruit 
of its decline," and " the earth and heaven combined in one 
name." In spite of its obvious poetical exaggeration, this 
metaphorical but eloquent praise is not empty ; it sums up with 
unerring insight the deeper issues of the drama, which is bound 
to be lost sight of by one who looks to it merely for a message 
or philosophy of life. 

The Abhijfiana-ahuntala, unlike most Sanskrit plays, is 
not based on the mere banality of a court-intrigue, but has a 
much more serious interest in depicting the baptism of youthful 
love by silent suffering. Contrasted with Kalidasa's own 
Mdkvikagnimitra and Vikramorva&ya, the sorrow of the hero and 
heroine in this drama is far more human, far more genuine ; and 
love is no longer a light-hearted passion in an elegant surround- 
ing, nor an explosive emotion ending in madness, but a 'deep and 
steadfast enthusiasm, or rather a progressive emotional 
experience, which results in an abiding spiritual feeling. The 
drama opens with a description of the vernal season, made for 
enjoyment (upabhoga-ltsama) ; and even in the hermitage where 
thoughts of love are out of place, the season extends its witchery 
and makes the minds of the young hero and heroine turn lightly 
to such forbidden thoughts. At the outset we find Sakuntala, 
an adopted child of nature, in the daily occupation of tending 
the friendly trees and creepers and watching them grow and 
bloom, herself a youthful blossom, her mind delicately attuned 
to the sights and sounds in the midst of which she had grown up 
since she had been deserted by her amanusl mother. On this 
scene appears the more sophisticated royal hero, full of the pride 


of youth and power, but with a noble presence which inspires 
love and confidence, possessed of scrupulous regard for rectitude 
but withal susceptible to rash youthful impulses, considerate of 
others and alive to the Dignity and responsibility of his high 
station, but accustomed to every fulfilment of his wishes and 
extremely self-confident in the promptings of his own heart. 
He is egoistic enough to believe that everything he wishes 
must be right because he wishes it, and everything does 
happen as he wishes it. In his impetuous desire to gain what 
he wants, he does not even think it necessary to wait for the 
return of Kanva. It was easy for him to carry the young girl 
off her feet ; for, though brought up in the peaceful seclusion 
and stern discipline of a hermitage, she was yet possessed of a 
natural inward longing for the love and happiness which were due 
to her youth and beauty. Though fostered by a sage and herself 
the daughter of an ascetic, she was yet the daughter of a nymph 
whose intoxicating beauty had once achieved a conquest over 
the austere and terrible Visvamitra. This beauty and tins 
power she had inherited from her mother, as well as an inborn 
keenness and desire for love; is she not going to make her 
own conquest over this great king? For such youthful lovers, 
love can never think of the morrow ; it can only think of the 
moment. All was easy at first ; the secret union to which they 
committed themselves obtains the ratification of the foster-father. 
But sooii she realises the pity of taking love as an end in itself, 
of making the moment stand for eternity. The suffering comes 
as swiftly and unexpectedly as the happiness was headlong and 

To these thoughtless lovers the curse of Durvasas comes to 
play the part of a stern but beneficient providence. With high 
hopes and unaware o( the impending catastrophe, she leaves for 
the house of her king-lover, tenderly taking farewell from her 
sylvan friends, who seem to be filled with an unconscious anxiety 
for her ; but very soon she finds herself standing utterly 
humiliated in the eyes of the world. Her grief, remorse and 


self-pity are aggravated by the accusation of unseemly haste and 
secrecy from Gautami, as well as by the sterner rebuke of 
Sarrigarava : " Thus does one's heedlessness lead to disaster ! M 
But the unkindest cut comes from her lover himself, who 
insultingly refers to instincts of feminine shrewdness, and 
compares her, without knowing, to the turbid swelling flood 
which drags others also in its fall. Irony in drama or in life 
can go no further. But the daughter of a nymph as she was, 
she had also the spirit of her fierce and austere father, and 
ultimately emerges triumphant from the ordeal of sorrow. She 
soon realises that she has lost all in her gambling for happiness, 
and a wordy warfare is useless. She could not keep her lover 
by her youth and beauty alone. She bows to the inevitable ; and 
chastened and transformed by patient suffering, she wins back 
in the end her husband and her happiness. But the king is as 
yet oblivious of what is in store for him. Still arrogant, ironical 
and self-confident, he wonders who the veiled lady might be ; her 
beauty draws him as irresistibly as it once did, and yet his 
sense of rectitude forbids any improper thought. But his 
punishment comes in due course ; for he was the greater culprit, 
who had dragged the unsophisticated girl from her sylvan 
surroundings and left her unwittingly in the mire. When the 
ring of recognition is recovered, he realises the gravity of his 
act. Her resigned and reproachful form now haunts him and 
gives him no peace in the midst of his royal duties ; and his 
utter helplessness in rendering any reparation makes his grief 
more intense arid poignant. The scene now changes from earth 
to heaven, from the hermitage of Kanva and the court of the 
king to the penance-grove of Marica ; and the love that was of 
the earth changes to love that is spiritual and divine. The 
strangely estranged pair is again brought together equally 
strangely, but not until they have passed through the trial of 
sorrow and become ready for a perfect reunion of hearts. There 
is no explanation, no apology, no recrimination, nor any demand 
for reparation. Sakuntala has now learnt in silence the lessons 



of suffering ; and with his former self-complacency and impetuous 
desires left behind, the king comes, chastened and subdued, a 
sadder and wiser man. The young year's blossom now ripens 
into the mellow fruit of autumnal maturity. 

Judged absolutely, without reference to an historical 
standard, Kalidasa's plays impress us by their admirable 
combination of dramatic and poetic qualities ; but it is in pure 
poetry that he surpasses even in his dramatic works. It should 
be admitted that he has the powers of a great dramatist ; he can 
merge his individuality in the character he represents ; he can 
paint distinct individuals, and not personified abstractions, with 
consistent reality and profound insight into human nature ; all 
his romantic situations may not be justified, but he is always at 
the height of a situation ; within certain limits, he has construct- 
ive ability of a high order, and the action is perspicuous, 
naturally developed and adequately motived ; he makes a skilful 
use of natural phenomenon in sympathy with the prevaling tone 
of a scene ; he gives by his easy and unaffected manner the 
impression of grace, which comes from strength revealed without 
unnecessary display or expenditure of energy ; he never tears a 
passion to tatters nor does h& overstep the modesty of nature in 
producing a pathetic effect ; he does not neglect the incident in 
favour of dialogue or dainty stanzas ; all this and more may be 
freely acknowledged. But the real appeal of his dramas lies in the 
appeal of their poetry more than in their purely dramatic quality. 
His gentle pathos and humour, his romantic imagination and his 
fine poetic feeling are more marked characteristics of his dramas 
than mere ingenuity of plot, liveliness of incident and minute 
portraiture of men and manners. They save him from the 
prosaic crudeness of the realist, as well as from an oppressive and 
unnatural display of technical skill. The elegant compliment 
of the author of the Prasanna-raghava that Kalidasa is the ' grace 
of poetry ' emphasises the point ; but poetry at the same time 
is not too seductive for him. He is a master of sentiment, 
but not a sentimentalist who sacrifices the realities of life ape} 


character ; he is romantic, but his romance is not divorced from 
common nature and common sense. He writes real dramas 
and not a series of elegant poetical passages ; the poetic fancy 
and love of style do not strangle the truth and vividness of his 
presentation. He is also not in any sense the exponent of the 
opera^ or the lyrical drama, or the dramatic poem. He is rather 
the creator of the poetical drama in Sanskrit. But the difficult 
standard which he set could not be developed except in an 
extreme form by his less gifted successors. 

In making a general estimate of Kalidasa' s achievement 
as a poet, one feels the difficulty of avoiding superlatives ; but 
the superlatives in this case are amply justified. Kalidasa's 
reputation has always been great; and this is perhaps the only 
case where both Eastern and Western critics, applying not 
exactly analogous standards, are in general agreement. That 
he is the greatest of Sanskrit poets is a commonplace of literary 
criticism, but if Sanskrit literature can claim to rank as one 
of the great literatures of the world, Kalidasa's high place in the 
galaxy of world-poets must be acknowledged. It is not necessary 
to prove it by quoting the eulogium of Goethe and Ananda- 
vardhana ; but the agreement shows that Kalidasa has the gift 
of a great poet, and like all great poetic gifts, it is of universal 

This high praise does not mean that Kalidasa's poetic art 
and style have never been questioned or are beyond criticism. 
Leaving aside Western critics whose appreciation of an alien 
art and expression must necessarily be limited, we find the 
Sanskrit rhetoricians, in spite of their great admiration, are not 
sparing in their criticism ; and, like Ben Jonson who wanted to 
blot out a thousand lines in Shakespeare, they would give us a 
fairly long list of " faults " which mar the excellence of Kali- 
dasa's otherwise perfect work. We are not concerned here with 
the details of the alleged defects, but they happily demonstrate 
that Kalidasa, like Shakespeare, is not faultily faultless. That 
his rhetoric is of the best kind is shown by the hundreds of 


passages approved by the rhetoricians themselves ; but that they 
sometimes disapprove his not conforming rigidly to their laws 
is also significant. If his obedience is successful, his dis- 
obedience is often no less successful in giving him freedom of 
idea and expression and saving him from much that is wooden 
and merely conventional. 

Even in the imposing gallery of Sanskrit poets who arc 
always remarkable for technical skill, Kalidasa has an astonishing 
display of the poetic art ; but he never lends himself to an over- 
development of the technical to the detriment of the artistic. 
The bgend which makes Kalidasa an inspired idiot and implies 
a minimum of artistic consciousness and design is perhaps as 
misleading as the counter-error of too great insistence upon the 
consciousness and elaboration of his art. There is little doubt 
that he shared the learning of his time, but he weirs his learn- 
ing lightly like a flower; while the deceptive clarity and simpli- 
city of his work conceal the amount of cultivation and polish 
which goes into its making. It is not spontaneous creation ; 
but while lesser poets lack the art to conceal art, he has the gift 
of passion, imagination, music and colouring to give an effective 
appearance of spontaneity and inevitability. He belongs to a 
tradition which insists upon literature being a learned pursuit, 
/but he is one of the great and limpid writers who can be 
approached with the minimum of critical apparatus and commen- 
tatorial lucubrations. 

This marvellous result is made possible because Kalidasa's 
works reveal a rare balance of mind, which harmonises the artis- 
tic sense with the poetic, and results in the practice of singular 
moderation. No other Sanskrit poet can approach him in the 
command of that mysterious instrument, the measured word. 
Kalidasa has a rich and sustained elevation of diction, but it is 
never overwrought and very rarely rhetorical in the bad sense. 
Conceits and play upon words are to be found in him, as in 
Shakespeare, but there are no irritating and interminable puns ; 
4 no search after strained exnressions. harsh inversions or involved 


constructions ; no love for jewels five words long ; no torturing 

of words or making them too laboured for the ideas. Even 

Kalidasa's love of similitude, 1 for which he has been so highly 

praised, never makes him employ it as a mere verbal trick, but 

it is made a natural concomitant of the emotional content for 

suggesting more than what is expressed. On the other hand, 

his ideas, emotions and fancies never run riot or ride rough-shod 

over the limits of words, within which they are compressed 

with tasteful economy and pointedness of phrasing. The result 

is a fine adjustment of sound and sense, a judicious harmony 

of word and idea, to a point not often reached by other Sanskrit 

poets. This is seen not only in the extraordinary vividness and 

precision of his presentment of images and ideas, but also in 

the modulation of letter, syllable, word, line and stanza to 

produce a running accompaniment at once to the images and 

ideas. The felicity of expression, its clarity and ease, which have 

been recognised in Kalidasa as the best instance of the Prasada 

Guna, come from this careful choice of a rich store of words, 

both simple and compound, which are not only delicately attuned 

but also made alive with the haunting suggestion of poetry. 

If it is simplicity, it is simplicity made more elegant than 

ornateness itself by sheer genius for proportion and vividity. 

There are hundreds of words, phrases and lines in Kalidasa, 

echoing passages and veritable gems of expression, giving us 

an infinity of fresh and felt observations, which fasten themselves 

on the memory ; such is the distinctness of his vision and the 

elaborate, but not laboured, accuracy of his touch. If the 

gift of phrasing is one of the tests of a great writer, 

Kalidasa possesses this happy gift ; but it is also combined 

with the still more rare gifts, seen in perfection in great poets, 

of putting multumin parvo and of opening up unending vistas of 

thought by the magic power of a single line or phrase. 

1 A study of Kalidasa's Upama has been made by P. K. Gode in Proc. of the First 
Orient. Con/,, Poona 1922, pp. 205-26. On Kalidasa'a relation to Alaipkara literature in 
general, see Hillebrandt, Kaliddsa, p. 107 f. 


Kalidasa is indeed careful of form, but he is not careless of 
matter. Like later Sanskrit poets lie does not make his narrative 
a mere peg on which he can luxuriously hang* his learning and 
skill. Whatever may be said about his choice of themes, he is 
seldom unequal to them. The wide exploration of subjects, 
legendary, mythical, emotional and even fantastic, and his 
grasp over their realities, are seen in the way in which he handles, 
his huge and diverse material in the Raghu-vam$a, creates a 
a human story out of a divine myth in his Kumara-sambhava 
and depicts the passionate Jove of hapless lovers in an environ- 
ment of poetical fancy in his Megha-duta and his dramas. He 
may not always be at the height of his power through the entire 
length of a work, but he is always at the height of a particular 
situation. His sources are not exactly known, but it is clear 
that his subjects serve him for the stuff out of which he creates; 
and Kalidasa perhaps borrows nothing from his supposed 
originals that makes him Kalidasa. He is not so much the 
teller of a story as the maker of it, and his unerring taste and 
restraint accomplish this making by not allowing either the form 
or the content to overwhelm or exceed each other. 

The same sense of balance is also shown by the skilful 
adjustment of a mobile and sensitive prosody to the diction and 
theme of the poems. The total number of different metres which 
Kalidasa employs is only about twenty. With the exception of 
Mandakranta of his short poem, they are either Sloka, 1 or a few 
moric metres like Vaitaliya, Aupacchandasika or Puspitagra, but 
the general bulk consists normally of the relatively short lyrical 
measures of the Tristubh-JagatI family or metres akin to it. In 
the drama, of course, there is greater metrical variety suited to 
the different situations and emotions. In the bigger poems the 


It is remarkable thai the loka is used not only for the condensation of the Kauiayana 
story in Raghu xii, but al*o for the Stotra of deities both in Raghu 9 x and Kumara* ii, aa 
well as for the narration of Raghu *s Dig vi jay a. For repetition of the same metre for similar 
theme, c/. Vijogini in Aja-vilapa and Bati-vilapa; Upajati in describing mairiage in Raghu* 
vii and Kumdra* vii; KathoddhatS in depicting amorous pastimes in Raghu xix and 
Kumar ^ viii, etc. 


short lyrical measures are perhaps meant for facility of continued 
narration ; the simplicity and swing of the stanzas make his 
narrative flow in a clear arid attractive stream ; but even in the 
leisurely descriptive and reflectively serious passages, they never 
cramp the thought, feeling or imagination || : the poet. The 
stately and long-drawn-out music of the Mandakranta, on the 
other hand, very well suits the picturesque and melancholy 
recollections of love in his Megha-duta. It is, however, clear thai 
Kalidasa is equally at home in. both short and long measures ; 
and though a part of canto ix of the Raghu-varnsa is meant 
deliberately to display the poet's skill in varied metres, the 
variation is not unpleasing. But, normally, it is not a question 
of mere metrical skill, but of the developed and delicate sense of 
rhythmic forms and the fine subtlety of musical accompaniment 
to the power of vivid and elegant presentation. 

With the same sense of equipoise Kalidasa's imagination 
holds in perfect fusion the two elements of natural beauty and 
human feeling. His nature-pictures grow out of the situations, 
and his situations merge into the nature-pictures. This is 
palpable not only in his Megha-duta, but practically throughout 
his other two poems and his dramas. The pathos of the destruc- 
tion of Kama is staged in the life and loveliness of spring; 
Rama's tender recollection of past joys and sorrows is intimately 
associated with the hills, rivers and trees of Dandaka ; the pretty 
amourette of Agnimitra, the madness of Pururavas, or the wood- 
land wooing of Dusyanta is set in the midst of the sights and 
sounds of nature. A countless number of Kalidasa's beautiful 
similes and metaphors is drawn from his loving observation 
of natural phenomena. The depth and range of his experience 
and insight into human life is indeed great, but the human 
emotion is seldom isolated from the beauty of nature surrounding 
it. Kalidasa's warm humanism and fine poetic sensibility 
romanticise the natural as well as the mythological \\orld, and 
they supply to his poetry the grace and picturesqueness of bacl$- 
ground ancl scenic variety. 


It will be seen that the sense of universality in Kalidasa's 
work springs not merely from its humanity and range of 
interests, but also from the fact that it reveals him as a great 
master of poetic thought who is at the same time a master of 
poetic style. Diction, imagery, verbal music, suggestion, all 
the elements of poetry are present in intense degree and in many 
forms and combinations novel and charming; but they all exhibit 
a marvellous fusion of the artistic consciousness with poetic 
imagination and feeling. Kalidasa's poetic power, which scorns 
anything below the highest, is indeed not narrow in its possibi- 
lities of application, but its amplitude and exuberance are always 
held in restraint by his sense of art, which, however, does not 
act as an incubus, but as a chastener. His work, therefore, is 
never hampered or hurried; there is no perpetual series of ups 
and downs in it, no great interval between his best and his 
worst ; it maintains a level of excellence and stamp of distinction 
throughout. All ruggedness and angularity are delicately 
smoothed away; and the even roundness of his full-orbed poetry 
appeals by a haunting suggestion of serene beauty, resulting from 
a subtle merging of thought and feeling in sound and visual effect. 

But from this spring both the strength and weakness of 
Kalidasa's poetic achievement. If tranquil contemplation of 
recollected emotions, in both eastern and western theory, 
denotes the aesthetic attitude and forms the essence of true 
poetry, Kalidasa's work is certainly marked by it in an eminent 
degree. His tranquility, considered as an attitude' towards life, 
is not easy-going indifference or placid acquiescence in the order 
of things; there is enough of earnestness and sense of sorrow 
to indicate that it must have been hard-won, although we are 
denied the sight of the strife and struggle which led to its attain- 
ment, or of the scars or wrinkles which might have been left 
behind. In his poetry, it bore fruit in the unruffled dignity and 
serenity of artistic accomplishment. At the same time, it en- 
couraged a tendency towards reserve more than towards abandon. 
Kalidasa's poetry seldom surprises us by its fine excess; it is 


always smooth, measured and even. The polished and the ornate 
is as much natural to Kalidasa as, for instance, the rugged and 
the grotesque to Bhavabhuti. While Kalidasa broiders the 
exquisite tissue of poetry, Bhavabhuti would have it rough and 
homespun. This is perhaps not so much a studied effect as a 
temperamental attitude in both cases. The integrity and sincerity 
of primal sensations and their fervid expression, which Bhava- 
bhuti often attains, are rare in Kalidasa's highly refined and 
cultured utterances. It is not that Kalidasa is averse to what is 
intense and poignant, as well as grand and awe-inspiring, in life and 
nature, but the emotions are chastened and subdued in the severity, 
strength and dignity of finished poetic presentation. There is 
nothing crude, rugose or tempestuous in Kalidasa, not a jarring 
note of violence or discord, but everything is dissolved in the 
harmony and beauty of reposeful realisation. The limitation of 
this attitude is as obvious as its poetic possibility. While it 
gives the perfect artistic aloofness conducive to real poetry, it 
deprives the poet of robust and keen perceptions, of the concrete 
and even gross realism of undomesticated passion, of the fresh- 
ness of the drossy, but unalloyed, ore direct from the mine. 
Kalidasa would never regard his emotions as their own excuse 
for being, but would present them in the embalmed glamour 
of poetic realisation, or in the brocaded garb of quintessenced 
rhetoric. Kalidasa has perhaps as much optimism for civilisa- 
tion as Bhavabhuti has for savagery ; but he does not often 
attain the depths and heights which Bhavnbhuti does by bis 
untamed roughness. It is for this reason that some of Kali- 
dasa's pictures, both of life and nature, finely poetic as they are, 
are still too refined and remote. The Himalayas do not appear 
to Kalidasa in their natural grandeur and sublimity, nor the 
Dan^aka forest in its wild beauty and ruggedness ; all these 
pictures are to be properly finished and framed, but" thereby they 
lose much of their trenchant setting and appeal. 

But all this is not mere suavity or finicality. Kalidasa's 
poetry does not swim in langour, cloyed with its own sweetness ; 



the chastity and restraint of his imagination, the precision and 
energy of his phrasing, and the austerity of his artistic vigilance 
save him from mere sensuous ideality. Nor is it classical correct- 
ness in the narrow sense that might be learned in the schools 
of literature. The ornate in Kalidasa, therefore, means very 
rarely mere prettiness or aesthetic make-believe ; it is the 
achievement of the refined effect of a thought or feeling chiselled 
in its proper form of beauty and becoming thereby a poetic 
thought or feeling. It thus involves the process through which 
the poet lifts his tyrannical passion or idea to the blissful contem- 
plation of an aesthetic sentiment. Kalidasa can keep himself 
above his subject in the sense of command, as Bhavabhuti too 
often merges himself in it in the sense of surrender ; and the 
difference is best seen in their respective treatment of pathos, 
in which Kalidasa' s poetic sense of restraint and balance certain- 
ly achieve a more profound effect. This is nowhere more clear 
than in the picture of Kama's suffering on the occasion of Sita's 
exile, drawn respectively by the two poets. Bhavabhuti 's tendency 
is to elaborate pathetic scenes almost to the verge of crudity, 
omitting no circumstances, no object animate or inanimate which 
he thinks can add to their effectiveness ; and, like most Sanskrit 
poets, he is unable to stop even when enough has been said. 
But Kalidasa, like Shakespeare, suggests more than he expresses. 
Not one of those who gather round the body of Cordelia makes a 
phrase ; the emotion is tense, but there is no declamation to work 
it up. The terrible blow given by the reported calumny regarding 
his beloved makes Rama's heart, tossed in a terrible conflict 
between love and duty, break in pieces, like the heated iron 
beaten with a hammer ; but he does not declaim, nor faint, nor 
shed a flood of tears. It is this silent suffering which makes 
Kalidasa's Rama a truly tragic figure. Not until Laksmana 
returns and delivers the spirited but sad messnge of his banished 
wife that the king in him breaks down and yields to the man ; 
but even here Kalidasa has only one short stanza (xiv. 84) which 
sums up with infinite suggestion the entire pity of the situation, 



The difficulty of fixing an exact chronology, as well as the 
paucity and uncertainty of material, does not permit an orderly 
historical treatment of the poets and dramatists who, in all 
probability, flourished between Kalidasa, on the one hand, and 
Magha and Bhavabhuti, on the other. It must have been a 
period of great vitality and versatility ; for there is not a single 
department of literature which is left untouched or left in a rudi- 
mentary condition. But a great deal of its literary productions is 
probably lost, and the few that remain do not adequately repre- 
sent its many-sided activity. We know nothing, for instance, 
of the extensive Prakrit literature, which presupposes Hala's 
poetical compilation, and which sums up its folk-tale in the lost 
collection of Gunadhya's Brhatkatha. No early collection also of 
the popular tale in Sanskrit has survived ; and of the possible 
descendants of the beast-fable, typified by the Pancatantra, we 
know nothing. Concurrently with the tradition of Prakrit love- 
poetry in the stanza-form, illustrated by the Sattasaf of Hala, 
must have started the same tradition in Sanskrit, which gives 
us the early Sataka of Amaru and which is followed up by those 
of Bhartfhari and others ; but the exact relationship between the 
two traditions is unknown. The origin of the religious and 
gcomic stanzas, such as we find crystallised in -the Stotra- 
Satakas of Mayura and Bana and the reflective Satakas of Bhartr- 
hari, is equally obscure. Nor do we know much about the 
beginnings of the peculiar type of the Sanskrit prose romance ; 
and we possess no earlier specimens of them than the fairly 
mature works of Dandin, Bana and Subandhu, who belong to 


this period. The dramatic works of Bbasa and Kalidasa must- 
have inspired many a dramatist, but with the exception of 
Sudraka, Visakhadatta, Hara and the writers of four early 
Monologue Plays (Bhanas), ascribed respectively to Yararuci, 
Sudraka, Xsvaradatta and Syamilaka, all other names have 
perished ; while Bhatta Narayana probably, and Bbavabhuti 
certainly, corne at the end of this period. The number of early 
poetical works in Sanskrit, the so-called Mahakavyas, is still 
fewer. If the poetical predecessors of Kalidasa have all dis- 
appeared, leaving his finished achievement in poetry to stand by 
itself, this is still more the case with his successors. Bharavi, 
Bhatti, Kumaradasa and Magha, with just a few minor poets, 
practically complete the list of the composers of the Mahakavya of 
this period. With the example of a consummate master of poetry 
to guide them, the general level of merit should have been fairly 
high and wide-spread ; but, since much is apparently lost, the 
solitary altitudes become prominent and numerous in our 


Although love-poetry blooms in its fullness in the Sanskrit 
literature, more than in the Vedic and Epic, its earliest speci- 
mens are lost. It should not be supposed that the passionate 
element in human nature never found expression. The episode 
of the love of Nanda and Sundari painted by A^vaghosa, the 
erotic theme of the poem of Ghatakarpara, as well as the very 
existence of the Megha-duta, show that erotic poetry could not 
have been neglected. Love may not yet have come to its own in 
the Kunstpoesie, the polished and cultured Kavya ; but the 
example of Eala's Sattasal, whose stanzas are predominantly 
erotic, makes it possible that in folk-literature, the tradition of 
which is at least partially preserved in Prakrit, it finds an 
absorbing theme. The Prakrit poetry here is doubtless as con- 


ventional aB Sanskrit, and is not folk-literature in its true sense ; 
but it is clear that, while these early Prakrit stanzas, popular 
among the masses, have love for their principal subject, the early 
Sanskrit poems, so far as they have survived, do not often accept 
it as their exclusive theme. There is indeed no evidence to show 
that the Prakrit love-lyric is the prototype of the Sanskrit, but 
the presumption is strong that the erotic sentiment, which had 
diffused itself in the popular literature, survived in Prakrit poetry, 
and gradually invaded the courtly Sanskrit Kavya, which provid- 
ed a naturally fertile soil for it, and of which it ultimately became 
the almost universal theme. 

It is remarkable, however, that, with the exception of a few 
works like the Megha-duta, the Ghatakarpara monody and the 
Glta-govinda, which, again, are not unalloyed love-poems, the 
Sanskrit erotic poetry usually takes the form, not of a systematic 
well-knit poem, but of a single poetical stanza standing by itself, 
in which the poet delights to depict a single phase of the emotion 
or a single situation within the limits of a finely finished form. 
Such is the case mostly with the seven hundred Prakrit stanzas, 
which pass under the name of Hala Satavahana. If in Prakrit the 
highest distinction belongs to Hala's Sattasal for being a collection 
which gives varied and charming expression to the emotion of 
love, the distinction belongs in Sanskrit without question J to the 
Sataka of Amaru, about whose date and personality, however, as 
little is known as about those of Hala. It is a much smaller 
work, but it is no less distinctive and delightful. 

A Sataka, meaning a century of detached stanzas, is usually 
regarded as the work of a single poet, although it is probable 
that Hala's seven centuries, in the main, form an antho- 
logy. The form, however, allows easy interpolation ; and 
most of the early Satakas contain much more than a hundred 

1 Although the commentator Ravicandra finds a philosophical meaning in Amaru's 

stanzas 1 And Vemabhupala, another commentator, would take the work to be merely a 

rhetorical text-book of the satne type as liudra Bha(ta's $rhgara*tilaka, meant to illustrate 
the various classas of the Nayika and the diversity of their amorous conditions 1 


stanzas, it is not always possible, however, for several reasons, 1 
to separate the additions with certainty, and arrive at a definitive 
text. The Amaru-fat aka* for instance, is known to exist in at 
least four recensions, 8 in which the text fluctuates between totals 
of 96 and 115 stanzas, 4 the number of stanzas common to all 
the recensions, but given in varying sequence, being only 51. 
The uncertainty of the text not only makes an estimate of the 
work difficult, but also diminishes the value of any chronological 
conclusion which may be drawn fr^m the citation of a particular 
stanza in later works. Vamana's quotation, 6 for instance, in 
the beginning of the 9th century, of three stanzas without 
naming the work or the author, establishes nothing, although 
these stanzas occur in the present text of Amaru's tfataka. The 
earliest mention of Auiciru as a poet of eminence is found in the 
middle of the 9lb century in Anandavardhana's work, 1 ' but it is of 
little assistance, as Amaru is perhaps a much earlier writer. 

1 The attribution in the anthologies, which often quote from Amaru, is notoriously 
unreliable ; and there is a great deal of divergence regarding the number and sequence of 
stanzas in the texts of the commentators and in the manuscripts of the work 

* cd. B. Simon, in four recensions (Roman characters), Kiel 1893 (Of. ZDMG, XLIX, 
1895, p. 577f) ; ed. Calcutta 1808 (see J. Gildemeister, Bibliothecae Sanskritae, Bonn 1847, p. ,73, 
no. 162), with the comrn. of Havicandra (ahas Juanananda Kaladhara); ed. Durgaprasad, with 
comra. of Arjunavarmadeva, with addl. stanzas from commentators and anthologies, N8P, 3rd 
ed. f Bombay 1916 (1st ed,, 1889). 

8 Viz., South Indian (com ID. Vemabbupala and Kamaoandanatha), Bengal (comtn. 
Havicandra), Wesb Indian (comra. Arjunavarmadeva and Kokasambhava), and Miscellaneous 
(comm. Ramarudra, Budramadeva, etc.). Simon bases his text chiefly on the South Indian 
recension, but it hardly supersedes the text of Arjunavarmadeva of Dhara (circa 1215 A.D.), 
who is the oldest known commentator. No certainty, of course, is possible without further 
critical examination of materials. 

4 Arjunavarman's printed text contains 102 stanzas; in the N3P. (Bombay) ed., the 
appendices add 61 verses from other commentators and anthologies. Aufrecht'a suggestion 
(ZDMG, XXVII, p. 7f), on the analogy of one-metre Satakas of Bana and Mayura, that only 
stanzas in the Sardulavikricjita metre are original, would give us about 54 to 61 in recensions 
Mil, and only 83 in recension iv. For the anthology stanzas, some of which are fine pieces, but 
ascribed sometimes to other authors, see Thomas, Kvs t p. 22 f ; some of these are not traceable 
in the printed text ; they are in varied metres. 

$ ed, Simon, DOS. 16, 30, 89 Vamana, Kavydlatpkara, iii. 2. 4 ; iv. 3. 12 ; v. 2. 8. 

6 Dhvany&loka ad iii. 7. 


The suggestion that he is later than Bhartrbari proceeds chiefly 
on the debatable ground of style and technique; but after the 
poetic art of Kalidasa, elaboration and finish of expression may 
be expected in any writer, and need not prove anything. Even 
if Amaru is later than Bhartrhari, the works of both exhibit 
certain characteristics which would preclude a date later than 
this period, and probably they could not have been very far apart 
from each other in time. 

Amaru is less wide in range than Hala, but he strikes 
perhaps a deeper and subtler note. Araaru's poems lack a great 
deal of the homeliness and rough good sense of Hala's erotic 
stanzas; but they do not present, as more or less Hala's verses- 
do, the picture of simple love set among simple scenes. Amaru 
describes, with great delicacy of feeling and gracefulness of 
imagery, the infinite moods and fancies of love, its changes and 
chances, its strange vagaries and wanton wiles, its unexpected 
thoughts and unknown impulses, creating varied and subtle 
situations. His language, with all the resources of Sanskrit, 
is carefully studied, but not extravagantly ornate ; and his gift of 
lyric phrasing gives it the happy touch of ease and naturalness. 
Amaru does not confine himself to the narrow limits of Hala's 
slow-moving moric stanza, but appears to allow himself greater 
metrical variety and more freedom of space. His employment of 
long sonorous metres, as well as short lyric measures, 1 not only 
relieves the monotony of metrical effect, but adds richness, 
weight and music to his little camoes of thought and feeling. 

In spite of inequalities, almost every stanza in this collection 
possesses a charm of its own; 2 and the necessity of compressing 

1 The metres employed in their order of frequency are : SarJulaviktidita, HarinI, 
3 kliarinl, Mand&kranta, Sragdhara, Vaaantatilaka and MalinT; while Drutavilambita, Vaktra 
and Vaiplasthavila occur sporadically in some recensions only. See Simon's metrical analysis, 
p. 46. 

1 For some specimens, with translation, see 8. K. De, Treatment of Lore in Sanskrit 
Literature, Calcutta 19-29, p. 28f; C Jl. Narasimha Sarma, Studies in Sanskrit Lft., 
Mysore 1986, pp. 1-80. 


synthetically one whole idea or image within the limits of a 
single stanza not only gives a precision and restrained elegance 
to the diction, but also presents, in each stanza, a complete 
picture in a finely finished form. In this art of miniature word- 
painting, of which we have already spoken, Amaru unquestion- 
ably excels. The love depicted in his stanzas is often youthful 
and impassioned, in which the sense and the spirit meet, with 
all the emotions of longing, hope, ecstasy, jealousy, anger, dis- 
appointment, despair, reconciliation and fruition. Amaru's 
world is indeed different from ours, but his pictures are marked 
by a spirit of closeness to life and common realities, not often 
seen in the laboured and sustained masterpieces of this period 4 , as 
well as by an emotional yet picturesque directness, by a subtle har- 
mony of sound and sense, and by a freedom from mere rhetoric, 
qualities which are not entirely devoid of appeal to modern taste. 
But, on the surface, the light of jewelled fancy plays, and makes 
beautiful even the pains arid pangs which are inseparable from 
the joys and ^ hopes of love. It is not love tossed on the stormy 
sea of manhood and womanhood, nor is it that infinite passion 
and pain of finite hearts which lead to a richer and wider life. 
But, as we have already said, the Sanskrit poet delights in depict- 
ing the playful moods of love, its aspects of Llla, in which even 
sorrow becomes a luxury. When he touches a deeper chord, the 
tone of earnestness is unmistakable, but its poignancy is rendered 
pleasing by a truly poetic enjoyment of its tender and pathetic 
implications. Rightly does inandavardhana praise the stanzas of 
Amaru as containing the veritable ambrosia of poetry; and in 
illustrating the theme of love as a sentiment in Sanskrit poetry, 
all writers on Poetics have freely used Amaru as one of the original 
and best sources. In Sanskrit sentimental poetry, Amaru should 
be regarded as the herald of a new developmental' which the result 
is best seen in the remarkable fineness, richness of expression and 
delicacy of thought and feeling of the love-poems of later 
Satakas, of the numerous anthologies^ and even of the poetical 


The same traits as we notice in the Sataka of Amaru are 
found more or less in later centuries of love-poems, among 
which the 3rhg&ra-ataka 1 of Bhartrhari must be singled out, 
not only for its early date and literary excellence, but also for 
the interest which attaches to the legends surrounding the 
mysterious personality of the author. Tradition ascribes to him 
also two other Satakas, on wise conduct (Nlti) and resignation 
(Vairagya), respectively, as well as an exposition of the philo- 
sophy of speech, entitled Vakyapadlya. 2 Although the last 
named work shows little of the softer gift of poetry, it is not 
inherently impossible for the poet to turn into a philosophical 
grammarian. From the Buddhist pilgrim Yi-tsing we know 
that a grammarian Bhartrhari, apparently the author of the 
Vakyapadiya, died about 051 A. D. ; and even if his reference 
does not make it clear whether Bhartrhari was also the poet of 
the three Satakas, his ignoring or ignorance of them need not 
be exaggerated. Bhartrhari, the grammarian, was probably a 
Buddhist, 8 but the fact that the Satakas reveal a Saiva of the 
Vedanta persuasion 4 does not necessarily justify the supposition 
of two Bhartrharis; for, apart from the question of interpolation, 

1 Ed. P. Bohlen, with Latin trs., Berlin 1833; also ed. in Haeberlin's Kavya- 
a.tingralm p. 14. 'J f., reprinted in Jivananda's Kavya-saipgraha, TI, p. 53 f, which also 
contains the Nlti a-id Vairagya at pp. 125 f, 172 f. The Nlti and Vairagya ha\e been edited, 
from a number of Mas, and with extracts from commentaries, by K. T. Telang, Bomb Skr. Ser., 
1874, 1885. TI e three Satakas are alto printed, under the title Subbasitatris'atI, with comm. 
of Eamucandra Budhendra, NSP, [6th revised ed., Bombay 1022 list ed. 1902]. A ciitical 
edition of the Satakas is still a necessity. Eng. trs., in verse, of Nlti and Vairasya by C. H. 
Tawney inL4, V, 1876 (reprinted separately, Calcutta 1877); all the Satakas trs. B. H. 
Wortliam, Trubner : London 1886; J. M. Kennedy, London 1913; C. W. Gurncr, Calcutta 

2 Sometimes 'he grammatical poem Bhatti-ltavya is ascribed to Ivm, but there ia 
nothing more than the name BLatti aa a Prakritised form of Bhartr to support the attribution. 
The legends which make Bhartihari a brother of the still IE ore mysterious Vikramaditya is 
useless for any historical purpose. The story has been dramatised in later times in the 
Bhartrhari-nirveda of Harihara,ed. NSP, Bombay 1912. Cf. Gray in JAOS, XXV, 1904, 
p. 197 f; A. V. W. Jackson in JAOS, XXIII, 1902, p. 313 f. 

3 See Pathak in JBRAS, XVIII, 1893, p. 341 f; but this view has not found geceral 

4 Telang. op. cit. t p. ix f , 


Hara likewise invokes the Buddha in his Nagananda, but pays 
homage to Siva in his Ratndvall. 

The texts of the Satakas of Bhartrhari, as they stand, are 
much more uncertain and devoid of definite structure than that 
of Amaru's Sataka ; and stanzas from them occur in the works 
of other well known writers, 1 or ascribed to other authors in the 
anthologies. The fact, however, -should not be made the ground 
of the presumption that Bhartrhari, like Vyasa and Canakya, 
is only a name under which miscellaneous compilations were 
passed, 2 or that Bhartrhari himself incorporated stanzas from 
other writers to make up his own poem. 3 The argument lacks 
neither ingenuity nor plausibility, but very few Satakas, early 
or late, have escaped the misfortune of tampering and interpola- 
tion; and a critical examination of the textual question is 
necessary before the problem can be satisfactorily solved. 
There is still nothing to prevent us from accepting the tradition 
of Bhartrhari 's original authorship, which is almost uniform and 
unbroken, and which does not relegate him (o the position of a 
mere compiler. 

Nor is there any cogency in the suggestion that the 
Sriigara-satalia alone is genuine, made on the alleged ground that 
it shows individuality and unity of structure as the product of 
a single creative mind. As the text itself is admittedly uncertain, 
regarding both originality and order of stanzas--, such surmises, 
based on content and style, are always risky ; but there is hardly 
anything to justify the position that the Srhgara-sataka can be 
sharply distinguished in this or other respects from the Niti- and 
Vairagya-satakas. If there is any substance in the legend 
recorded by Yi-sting that Bhartrhari vacillated no less than seven 
times between the comparative charms of the monastery and the 
world, it signifies that the poet who wrote a century of passionate 

* E.g. in AbhijnanaMuntala, Mudra-raksasa and Tantrakhyayika ; see Petergon, 
Sbhv, pp. 74-75. 

* Aufrccht, Leipzig Catalogue, no. 417. 
3 Bohlen, op. cit., Prefatio, p. viii. 


stanzas could very well write the other two centuries on worldly 
wisdom and renunciation. 

The susceptibility to contrary attractions is evident in all 
the three Satakas. The Ntti-ataka should not be taken as a 
mere collection of moral maxims or an epitome of good sense 
and prudence; it shows at once a lurking attachment to the 
world and an open revulsion from its sordidness. The poet says, 
with considerable bitterness, at the outset : " Those who are 
capable of understanding me are full of envy ; men in power are 
by arrogance disqualified; all others labour under stupidity ; all 
my good sayings have, therefore, grown old within myself." 
In the same strain, the poet refers to the haughtiness of kings, 
to the power of wealth, to the humiliation of servitude, to the 
clash of passion and prejudice with culture and education, to the 
wicked and the ignorant reviling the good and the wise, and to the 
distressing things of life, which he calls darts rankling in his 
heart. Nor is the Vairfigyu-sfitaha the work of an ascetic or 
inelastic mind. It- gives expression to the passionate pain of an 
idealist, whose inborn belief in the goodness of the world 
is shattered by the sense of its hollo wness and wickedness. 
It refers to the never-ending worries of earning and spending, 
of service and perpetual insults to one's self-respect, and of the 
wreck of human hopes in the striving for an ideal ; it condemns 
the smug complacency of humanity in the midst of disease, 
decay and death, and falls back upon the cultivation of a spirit of 

The vehemence with which Bhartrhari denounces the 
joys of life and attractions of love in these two poems is 
on a level with his attitude disclosed in his stanzas on 
love ; for the 3rhgara-ataka is not so much a poem on love 
as on the essential emptiness of love, an outburst not so much 
on its ecstasies and sunny memories by a self-forgetful lover, as 
on its darkening sorrows and wrongs by a man v in bitter earnest. 
It indicates a frame of mind wavering between abandon and 
restraint ; " either the fair lady or the cave of the mountains/ 1 


"either youth or the forest," " either an abode on the sacred 
banks of the Ganges or in the delightful embrace of a young 
woman " sentiments like these are scattered throughout. The 
delights of life and love are as much captivating as they are 
reprehensible ; the bitterness of the denunciation only indicates 
the measure of the terrible fascination which love and life exert 
on the poet ; it arises not so much from any innate repugnance 
as from the distressing necessity of convincing himself and tearing 
away from them. Bhartrhari's philosophy of love is simple: 
woman is both joy and sorrow, trouble and appeasement ; there 
is continual attraction and continual repulsion ; from loving too 
much the poet ceases to love at all and takes to asceticism. A 
man of artistic temperament and strong passions, the poet frank- 
ly delights in all that is delightful, but it gives him no peace 
nor any sure foothold anywhere. The tone is not sombre, but 
pungent, and even vitriolic. Bhartrhari inevitably reminds one 
of Asvaghosa, by the side of whose indignant outburst against 
woman, can be placed his biting interrogation: "Who has 
created woman as a contrivance for the bondage of all living 
creatures : woman, who is the whirlpool of all doubt, the uni- 
verse of indiscipline, the abode of all daring, the receptacle of all 
evil, the deceitful soil of manifold distrust, the box of trickery 
and illusion, a poison coated with ambrosia, the hindrance to 
heaven and a way to the depth of hell?" If the poet sometimes 
attains a calmer frame of mind in his two other Satakas on 
Niti and Vairagya, his intense conviction is hard-won, and can 
be best understood in the light of the powerful longings and 
their attendant sufferings which he describes in his Sataka on 
love. It is no wonder that his assumption of the yellow garb 
so often conflicted with his craving for worldly delights. 

Bhartrhari, therefore, differs from Amaru both in attitude 
and expression. He is too earnest to believe in the exaltation of 
woman as such, even though he cannot withstand the fascina- 
tion ; he is too serious to depict in swift succession the hundreds 
of tender memories and pleasing pains of love, its flying thoughts 


and dancing feelings, its delicate lights and shades, in the same 
way as they reflect themselves in Amaru's little poems in their 
playful warmth and colour. Bhartrhari's miniature love-stanzas 
have not the same picturesqueness of touch, the same delicacy 
and elegance of expression, but they gain in intensity, depth 
and range, 1 because they speak of things which lie at the core 
of his being ; they have enough piquancy and sharpness to require 
any graceful trimming. If Amaru describes the emotion of love 
and the relation of lovers for their own sake and without any 
implication for connecting them with larger aspects of life, 
Bhartrhari is too much occupied with life itself to forget its 
worries, and consider love and women 2 apart from it in any fanciful 
or ideal aspect. Amaru has perhaps more real poetry, but 
Bhartrhari has more genuine feeling. 3 

There is a large number of erotic and reflective stanzas 
scattered throughout the Sanskrit anthologies, but the absence 
or uncertainty of chronological data makes it difficult to separate 
the early from the late compositions. If, however, the anthology 
poet Dharmaklrti, who is sometimes cited also with the epithet 
Bhadanta, be the Buddhist logician and philosopher, he should 

1 The metres employed by Bhaitrbaii in the present texts of his three poems are 
diversified, but his inclination to long sonorous measures is shown by bis use of Sragdbara 
twenty-two times. See L. H. Gray, The Metres of Bhartrhari in JAOS, XX, 1899, 
pp. 157-59. 

2 It is noteworthy that Amaru always speaks of man's fickleness, and never echoes the 
almost universal bitterness regarding woman's inconstancy, which characterises much of 
the poetical, as well as religious and didactic, literature. Bhartrbarj, in one passage, re* 
commends boldness and even aggressiveness in dealing with women, which the commentator 
facetiously explains by saying that otherwise woman will dominate man ! For a general 
appreciation of Bhartrhari, see C. R. Narasimba Sarma, op cit. t pp. 28-56; H. Olden berg, 
Lit. d. alien indien, p. 221 f. ; S. K. De t op. cit. t p. 34 f. 

3 The attitude of mind, which leaves no alternative between the world and the monag- 
tery, between love and renunciation, is not only an individual trait, but seems to have marked 
the outlook of a class of Sanskrit poets, who wrote stanzas, applicable by double entente 
at once to the themes of enjoyment and resignation. In general also, the Sanskrit poets 
have enough simplicity and integrity of feeling to make them grateful for the joys of life, but 
penitent when they have exceeded in enjoying them. In such an atmosphere, it is clear, the 
idea of the chivalrous Platonic love or the so-called intellectual love could not develop 
at all. 



belong to a period between the 6th and 7th century A.D. The 
total number of stanzas independently assigned to him in the 
different anthologies 1 is about sixteen. 2 There is nothing of the 
scholar or the pedant in these elegant little poems, which are 
generally of an erotic character, and some of them are worthy 
of being placed by the side of those of Amaru and Bhartrhari. 
II Dharmaklrti, in the intervals of heavier work, wrote such a 
collection, its loss is much to be regretted. 


The vogue into which the Sataka style of poetry came 
in this period is also illustrated by the Stotras of Mayura 
and Barm, but their spirit, theme and method are different. 
The production of hymns in praise of deities obtained from 
the Vedic times, but the ancients possessed the secret of making 
their religion poetry and their poetry religion. Their descen- 
dants lost the art, but evolved a new type of Stotras or poem of 
praise and prayer. The Epics, as well as the Puranas and 
Tantras of uncertain date, abound in liturgical poems in which 
the gods of the new Hindu mythology receive adoration ; while 
the Jainas and Buddhists do not stay behind in addressing a 
large number of similar religious poems to the deities and 
teachers of their own pantheon and hagiology. Some of these 
compositions are meant solely for the purpose of sects and 
cults ; some are mere theological collections of sacred epithets or 

1 For a complete list, see Thomas, Kvs> pp. 47-50, which gives also a list of Dharma- 
klrti'e poetical works translated into Tibetan, including two Stotras. Also see Peterson, 
Sbhv, pp. 46-48, and in JBRAS, XVI, pp. 172-73; Aufrecht in Ind. Stud., XVI, pp. 204-7, 
ZDM G, XXVJI, p. 41: 

* Of these, Anandavardhana quotes one (iii, p. 216 ; /at>anya-cira*nna) with the remark : 
tatha c&yaip Dharmafarteh .Mo/ra iti prasiddhih, satflbhavyate ca tasyaiva ; and be adds 
another stanza (p. 217) by Dharmaklrti, which is not found in the anthologies. The first of 
these stanzas is also quoted and ascribed to DharmakTrti by Kgemendra in his lucitya- 


strings of a hundred or thousand sacred names ; most of them 
have a stereotyped form and little individuality ; but the .higher 
poetry and philosophy also invaded the field. Asvaghosa's early- 
eulogy of the Buddha in Buddha-carita xxvii is unfortunately lor.t 
in Sanskrit, while the Stotras of his school, ns well as the spuri- 
ous Gandl-stotra of a somewhat later time, are hardly of much 
poetical worth. We have, however, two remarkable Stotras to 
Visnu and Brahman, both in the Sloka metre; uttered by the 
gods in Kalidasa's Raghu (\. 16-32) and Kumara (iii. 4-15) 
respectively, although it is somewhat strange that there is no 
direct -Stotra to his beloved deity Siva. In this connexion, a 
reference may ba made to a similar insertion of Stotras in the 
Mahakavyas of the period, such as the Stava of Mahadeva by 
Arjuna in the closing canto of Bharavi's poem, that of Krsna by 
Bhisma in $i6upala-vadha xiv, and that of Candl by the gods in 
Ratnakara's Ham-vijaya xlvii (167 stanzas). But praise and 
panegyric very early become the individual theme of separate 
poems ; and an endless number of Stotras has survived. 1 They 
are mostly late, and of little literary \\orth ; for many have 
attempted but very few have succeeded in the exceedingly 
difficult task of >acied verse. Their theme and treatment do not 
al \vn\s concern Vairagya, but their devotional feeling is undoubt- 
ed, and they are seldom merely doctrinal or abstract. Their 
objective, however, is not poetry, and they seldom attain its proper 
accent. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Sanskrit poeticians 
and anthologists do not give much prominence to the Stotra works, 
nor consider them worthy of a separate treatment. 

The early efforts of Mayura and Banabhatta are not very 
impressive for their purely poetic merit, but they illustrate the 
early application of the elegant, but distinctly' laboured, manner 
of the Kavya and its rhetorical contrivances to this kind of litera- 

1 For religious hymnology, in general, a subject which has not yet been adequately 
studied, see S. P. Bhattacharyya, The Stotra-Literature of Old India in IHQ, I, 1925, 
PD. 340-60, for an eloquent appreciation. 


ture. Mayura is associated, 1 chiefly by late Jaina legends, asser- 
tions of late commentators and recorded traditions of anthologists, 
with Banabbatta as a literary rival in the court of Harsa and as 
related by marriage either as brother-in-law or father-in-law. 2 The 
legends also speak of Mayura's affliction with leprosy by the 
angry curse of Bana's wife, Mayura's alleged sister or daughter, 
whose intimate personal beauty he is said to have described in 
an indiscreet poem. This work is supposed to be identical with 
the highly erotic, but rather conventional, poem of eight 
fragmentary stanzas, which goes by the name Mayurastaka* and 
which describes a fair lady returning from a secret visit to her 
lover. Three of its stanzas are in Sragdhara (the metre of Surya- 
6ataka) and the rest in Sardulavikridita ; it refers, with more wit 
than taste, to the "tiger-sport" of the lady with the "demon of 
a lover," and to the beauty of her limbs which makes even an 
old man amorously inclined, 4 Tf the poem is genuine, it is 
possible that such descriptions in the poem itself started the 
legend ; but the legend also adds that a miraculous recovery from 
the unhappy disease was effected, through the grace of the sun- 
god, by Mayura's composing his well-known poem, the Sfiryn- 

1 All that is known of Mayura and his genuine and ascribed works will be found in 
GK P. Quackenbos, The Sanskrit Poems of Mayura, New York 1917 (Columbia Univ. Indo- 
Tranian series^; it gives the works in Roman transliteration, with Erg. trs. and notes, and 
also contains the Candt-jataka of Bana with trs. and not^s. 

* In the enumeration of tbe friends of his youth, who are said to have been of the saone 
age (cayasa samanah), Bana refers in hia Harsa-carila (ed. A. A. Fuhrer, Bombiy 19r9, 
p. 67 ; ed. Parab, NSP, Bombay 1892, p. 47, 4th ed., 1914, p. 42) to a certain Jangulika or 
snake-doctor, appropriately named Mayuraka, who may or may not be our poet ; but the 
earliest mention of the poet Mayura, along with Baija, in the court of Harsa occurs in the 
NQvasahasahka-carita (ii. 18 of Padmagupla (about 1005 A.D.). The Inter eulogistic stanza of 
Rftjas'ekhara in Sml O'v. 68), however, punningly alludes to the art of the snake-doctor The 
earliest anonymous quotation of two stanzas (Nos. 9, 23) from the Sarya-tataka of Mayura 
occurs in Inandavardhana's Dhvanydloka (2nd half of the 9th century), ii, p. 92 and 99-100. 
There is another much inferior tradition which connects him, along with many other Sanskrit 
poets, with king Bhoja of Dhara. 

8 Quackenbos, op. ct't., pp. 72.79, text and trs. ; also in JAOS, XXXI, 1911, pp. 843-54. 
-4 kenaisd, rati-raka$ena ramitd ardula-vikridita t st. 3; and dfjtv& rupam idarp, 
prtyahga-gahanam Vfddho'pi kdmayale, st. $. 


fataka, 1 in praise of the deity. But it must be said that the 
the Sataka gives the impression of being actuated not so much by 
piety as by the spirit of literary display. The theme of the 
work, which retains in its present form exactly one hundred 
stanzas, 2 consists of an extravagant description and praise of the 
sun-god and his appurtenances, namely, bis rays, the horses that 
draw his chariot, his charioteer Aruna, the chariot itself and the 
solar disc. The sixth stanza of the poem refers to the suni's 
power of healing diseases, which apparently set the legend 
rolling ; but the belief that the sun can inflict and cure 
leprosy is old, being preserved in the Iranian story of Sam, 
the prototype of the Puranic legend of Samba ; it may not 
have anything to do with the presumption that the cult of the 
sun was popular in the days of Harsa, even if Harsa's father is 
described in the Harsa-carita as a devotee of the sun. With all 
its devotional attitude, the poem is written in the elaborate 
Sragdhara metre ; and its diction, with its obvious partiality 
for compound words, difficult construction, constant alliteration, 
jingling of syllables and other rhetorical devices, 8 is equally 

1 Ed. G. P. Quackenbos, as above. Also ed. in Haeberlin, op. ct.> p, 197 f, reproduced 
in Jivananda, op. cit. t II, p. 222 f; ed. Durgaprasad and K. P. Parab with comin. of 
Tribhuvanapala, NSP, Bombay 1889, 1927 ; ed. with comra. of Yajnes*vara, in Pothi form, 
Baroda Samvat 1928 (=1872 A.D.). The Ceylonese paraphrase (Sanna) by Vilgamrnula" 
Mahathera, with text, ed. Don A. de Silva Devarakkhita Batuvantudave, Colombo 1883 
(see JRAS, XXVI, 1894, p. 555 and XXVIII, 1896, pp. 215-16). 

2 With an apparently spurious stanza at the end, not noticed by the commentator, in 
NSP ed., giving the name of the author and the Phala-Sruti. The order of the stanzas, 
however, is not the same in all editions and manuscripts ; but this is of little consequence in 
a loosely constructed poem of this kind. 

3 It ia remarkable that puns are not frequent; and the poem has some clever, 
but very elaborate, similes and metaphors, eg., that of the thirsty traveller (st. 14), of 
antidote against poison (st. 31), of the day-tree (st. 34), of the dramatic technique 
(st. 50) ; there ia a play on the numerals from one to ten (st. 18 j cf. Buddha -carita ii. 
41); harsh-sounding series of syllables often occur (st. 6, 98 etc.); while st. 71 is cited 
by Mamma{a as an instance of a composition, where facts are distorted in order to effect an 
alliteration. The Aksara-<Jambara, which Bana finds in the diction of the Gaudas, is abundant 
here, as well as in Ma own Canft-tataka ; and it is no wonder that one of the commen- 
tators, Madhusii'laoa (about 1654 A.D.I, gives to both Mayura and Bana the designa- 
tion of eastern poets (Pauraatya) . 


elaborate. The quality of graceful and dignified expression and 
the flowing gorgeousness of the metre may be admitted ; in fact, 
the majesty which this compactly loaded metre can put on has 
seldom been better shown ; but the highly stilted and recondite 
tendencies of the work have little touch of spontaneous inspira- 
tion about them. Whatever power there is of visual presenta- 
tion, it is often neutralised by the deliberate selection and 
pracfice of laboured tricks of rhetoric. The work is naturally 
favoured by the rhetoricians, grammarians and lexicographers, 
and frequently commented upon, 1 but to class it with the poems 
of Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti shows the lack of ability to distin- 
guish between real poetry and its make-believe. 2 

The Candl-$ataka 8 of Bana is of no higher poetical merit ; 
it is cited even less by rhetoricians 4 and anthologists, and com- 
mentaries on it are much fewer. 6 Written and composed in 
the same sonorous Sragdhara metre 6 (102 stanzas) and in the 
same elaborate rhetorical diction, the poem shows noteworthy 
similarity to Mayura's Sataka, and lends plausibility to the 
tradition that it was composed in admiring rivalry. The myth 
of Candi's slaying of the buffalo-demon is old,, being mentioned 
in the Mdhabharata (ix. 44-46) and amplified in the Puranas ; 
but Bana makes use of it, not for embellishing the story, but 
^for a high-flown panegyric of Candl, including a glorification 

1 The number of commentaries listed by Aufrecht is 25; see Quackenbos, op. 
cif. f p. 108* 

* About 20 stanzas in various metres, not traceable in this work, are assigned tc 
Mayura in the anthologies ; some of 'them are clever and less artificial, but are not of mucli 
poetical value. For these, see Quackenboa, pp. 229-242. Some of these verses are ascribed to 
other poets as well ; see Thomas, Kvs t p. 67f . 

9 Ed. in Kavyamala, Gucchaka iv, with a Sanskrit comm. : ed. G. P. Quackenbos, at 
above, pp. 243-357. There is nothing improbable in Sana's authorship of the work. Arjuna- 
varmadeva in the 12th century (on Amaru, st. 1) expressly ascribes this work to Bana and 
quotes a stanza from it. There is a picturesque description of a temple of Candika in Bana'i 

4 The earliest quotation is by Bboja, who cites at. 40 and 66. 

* Only two or three commentaries are, so far, known. 

* With the exception of sis stanzas in Sardulavikridita (nos. 25, 32, 49, 55, 66, 7-2] 
may or may not be original, for the variation has no special motive. 


of the power of Candl's left foot which killed the demon by its 
marvellous kick ! Bana does not adopt Mayura's method of syste- 
matic description of the various objects connected with Candl, 
but seeks diversion by introducting, in as many as forty-eight 
stanzas, speeches in the first person (without dialogue) by Candl, 
Mahisa, Candl's handmaids Jaya and Vijaya, Siva, Karttikeya, 
the gods and demons and even by the foot and toe-nails of 
Candl! Bana has none of Mayura'-s elaborate similes, but puns* 
are of frequent occurrence and are carried to the extent of 
involving interpretation of entire individual stanzas in two ways. 
There is an equally marked tendency towards involved and 
recondite constructions, but the stylistic devices and love of 
conceits are perhaps more numerous and prominent. The work 
has ali the reprehensible features of the verbal bombast with 
which Bana himself characterises the style of the Gaudas. Even 
the long-drawn-out and never sluggish melody of its voluminous 
metre does not fully redeem its artificialities of idea and express- 
ion, while the magnificent picturesqueness, which characterises 
Bana's prose works, is not much in evidence here. To a greater 
extent than Mayura's Sataka, it is a poetical curiosity rather 
than a real poem ; but it is an interesting indication of the 
decline of poetic taste and growing artificiality of poetic form, 
which now begin to mark the growth of the Kavya. 

One of Baja^ekhara's eulogistic stanzas quoted in the Sukti- 
muktavall (iv. 70) connects Bana and Mayura with Matanga (v. I. 
Candala) l Div&kara as their literary rival in the court of king 
Har?a. Nothing remains of his work except four stanzas quoted 
in the Subhasitavali, of which one (no. 2546), describing the sea- 
girdled earth successively as the grandmother, mother, spouse and 
daughter-in-law, apparently of king Harsa, has been censured for 
inelegance by Abhinavagupta. It has been suggested 2 that the 

J The G08 edition (Baroda 1938, p. 45) reads Candala, without any variant, but with 
the note that the reading Matanga is found in SP. Apparently the latter reading is 


1 F. Hall, introd. to Vasavadatta, Calcutta 1859, p. 21, and Maxmuller, India, p. 880, 

note 5. 


poet should be identified with Manatunga, the well known Jaina 
Scarya and author of two Stotras (namely, the Bhaktamara l in 
Sanskrit and Bhayahara 2 in Prakrit), on the ground that some 
Jaina tales of miracles 3 connect him with Bana and Mayura. 
But the evidence is undoubtedly weak, 4 and the presumption that 
the three Stotras of Bana, Mayura and this poet were meant 
respectively to celebrate sun-worship, Saktism and Jainism 
is more schematic than convincing. The date of Manatuiiga 
is uncertain ; the Jaina monastic records place him as early 
as the 3rd century A.D., but other traditions bring him down 
to periods between the 5th and the 9th century A.D. There 
is little basis of comparison between Manatunga's Stotra and 
the Satakas of Bana and Mayura. It consists of 44 or 48 
stanzas, in the lighter and shorter Vasantatilaka metre, in praise 
of the Jina Rsabha as the incomparable and almost deified 
saint ; but it is not set forth in the A3ir form of Bana and 
Mayura's Satakas, being directly addressed to the saint. It 
is in the ornate manner, but it is much less elaborate, and the 
rhetorical devices, especially punning, are not prominent. Its 
devotiorial feeling is unmistakable, but there is little that is 
distinctive in its form and content. 5 

To the king-poet Harsavardhana himself are ascribed, 
besides the three well known plays, some Buddhist Stotras of 
doubtful poetical value, if not of doubtful authorship. Of these, 

1 Ed. Kavyamala, Gucchaka vii, pp 1-10; also ed. and trs. H. Jacob! in Ind. Stud., 
XIV, p. 359f. The title is suggested by the opening words of the poera. 

2 Addressed to Jina ParSvanatha, hut the work is not yet printed. In 1309 A.D. 
Jinaprablia Suri wrote a commentary on it (Peterson, Report 1882-83, p. 52). 

3 The legend of the Jina's delivering Manatunga from his self-imposed fetters, on the 
parallel of Ca^di's healing the self-amputated limbs of Bana, is probably suggested by the 
general reference in the poem itself to the Jioa's power, apparently in a metaphorical sense, 
of releasing the devotee from fetters. 

4 See Quackenbos, op. cif., p. 10f. 

6 The later Jaina Stotras, in spite of their devotional importance, are not of much 
literary value; see Winterniti, HI L t II, p. 55lf. Even the Kalyana-mandira Stotra (ed. 
Kavyamala and Ind. Stud., loc. cit.) of Siddbasena Divakara is a deliberate and much more 
laboured imitation of the Bhaktamara in the same metre and same number (44) of stanzas. 


the Suprabha or Suprabhata Stotra, 1 recovered in Sanskrit, is 
a morning hymn of twenty-four stanzas addressed to the Buddha, 
in the Malini metre. About a dozen occasional stanzas, chiefly of 
an erotic character, but of a finer quality than the Stotra, 
are assigned to Harsa in the anthologies, in addition to a large 
riumber which can be traced mainly in the Ratnavall and the 


One of the most remarkable offshoots of the literature of 
this period is represented by a group of Kalidasa's direct and 
impressive poetical descendants, who made it their business to 
keep up* the tradition of the sustained and elevated poetical com- 
position, known in Sanskrit as the Mahakavya, but who develop- 
ed and established it in such a way as to stereotype it for all 
time to come. The impetus, no doubt, came from Kalidasa's two 
so-called Mahakavyas, but the form and content of the species 
were worked out in a different spirit. It would be unhistorical 
in this connexion to consider the definitions of the Mahakavya 
given by the rhetoricians^ 8 for none of them is earlier than 
Kalidasa, and the question whether Kalidasa conformed to them 

1 Ascribed wrongly to king Har^adeva of Kashmir in Bstan-hgyur and in Minayeff's 
manuscripts. It is given in extenso by Thomas in JRAS, 1903, pp. 703-7*22 and reproduced 
in App. B. to P. V. Kane's ed. of Harsa-carita, Bombay 1918. See Sbhv, Introd. under 

2 The anthologioal and inscriptional verses ascribed to Harsa are collected together in 
introd. to PriyadamJ:a t ed. Nariman, Jackson nnd Ogden, New York 1923, p. xlivf, and 
Thomas, Kvs. flee M.L, Ettingbausen, Harsavardhana, Louvain 1906, pp. 161-79. 

3 J. Nobel , The Foundations of Indian Poetry, Calcutta 1925, p. 140f. The Mahakavya 
or ' Great Poem f is a poetical narrative of heroic characters and exploits, but it is not a work 
of the type of the Great Epics, the Mahabharala or the Ramayana, which correspond to our 
sense of a heroic poem, but which are classified and distinguished as It hasas. The eminence 
denoted by the prefix ' great ' does not refer to the more primitive epic or heroic spirit nor to 
directness and simplicity, but rather to the bulk, sustained workmanship and general 
literary competence of these more sophisticated and deliberate productions. If an analogy is 
permissible, the Mahakavyas stand in the same relation to the Great Epics as the work of 
Milton does to that of Homer. 


does not arise. Nor should the group of early poets, with 
whom we are occupied here, be supposed to have followed them. 
On the contrary, the norm, which even the two earliest rhetori- 
cians, Bhamaha (i. 19-23) and Dandin (i. 14-19), lay down 
appears to have been deduced from the works of these poets 
themselves, especially from those of Bharavi, the main features 
of which are generalised into rules of universal application. 
As such, the definitions are, no doubt, empirical, but they deal 
with accidents rather than with essentials, and do not throw 
much light upon the historical or poetic character of these 

Perhaps for this reason, Vamana (i. 3. 22) brushes aside 
the definitions as of no special interest ; but it is important to 
note that the rather extensive analysis of Rudrata (xyi. 7-19), 
more than that of earlier rhetoricians, emphasises at least one 
interesting characteristic of the Mahakavya, as we know them, 
when it prescribes the rules for the development of the theme. 
Like his predecessors, he speaks indeed of such formal require- 
ments as the commencement of the poem with a prayer, blessing 
or indication of content, the pursuit of the fourfold ends of 
life (conduct, worldly success, love and emancipation), the 
noble descent of the hero, the occurrence of sentiments and 
ornaments, the division into cantos, the change of metre at 
the end of each canto, and so forth ; but he also gives a list of 
diverse topics which may be introduced into the main narrative. 
These include not only subjects like political consultation, 
sending of messengers and spies, encampment, campaign and 
triumph of the hero, but also descriptions of towns, citizens, 
* oceans, mountains, rivers, seasons, sunset, moonrise, dawn, 
sport in park or in water, drinking bouts and amorous dalliance. 
All this is, of course, prescri'bed as it is found conspicuously 
in Bharavi and Magha ; but Rudrata adds that in due time 
the poet may resume the thread of the main narrative, implying 
thereby that these descriptions, no matter what their relevancy 
\s, should be inserted a&a matter of conventional amplification 


and embellishment, and may even hold up and interrupt the story 
itself for a considerable length. This seldom happens in 
Kalidasa, in whom the narrative never loses its interest in 
subsidiary matters ; but in Bharavi and Magha these banal 
topics, loosely connected with the main theme, spread over at least 
five (iv, v, viii-x) and six (vi-xi) entire cantos respectively, until 
the particular poet has leisure to return to his narrative. While 
Bhatti is sparing in these digressions, which are found mostly 
scattered in cantos ii, x and xi, Kumaradasa devotes consider- 
able space to them (cantos i, iii, viii, ix and xii). Although 
there is, in these passages, evidence of fluent, and often fine, 
descriptive power, the inventiveness is neither free nor fertile, 
but moves in the conventional groove of prescribed subjects and 
ideas, and the over-loading of the parts necessarily leads to the 
weakening of the central argument. 

The motive for such adventitious matter is fairly obvious. 
It is meant to afford the poet unchartered freedom to indulge in 
his luxuriant descriptive talent and show off his skill and learn- 
ing. While it tends to make the content of the poem rich and 
diversified, one inevitable result of this practice is that the stciry 
is thereby pushed into the backgionnd, and the poetical em- 
bellishments, instead of being incidental and accessory, become 
the main point of the Mahakavya. The narrative ceases to be 
interesting compared to the descriptive, argumentative or erotic 
divagations of unconscionable length ; there is abundance, but no 
sense of proportion. The theme, therefore, is often too slender 
and insignificant; whatever may be there of it is swamped 
by a huge mass of digressive matter, on which the poet chiefly 
concentrates; and the whole poem becomes, not an organic 
whole, but a mosaic of poetic fragments, tastelessly cemented 

It must be admitted that there is no lack of interesting 
matter in these Mahakavyas, but the matter is deliberately made 
less interesting than the manner. The elegant, pseudo-heroic 
or succulent passages are generally out of place, but they are an 


admirable outlet for the fantastic fancy and love of rhetoric and 
declamation which characterise these poets. At the time we 
have reached, the stream of original thought and feeling, after 
attaining its high-water mark in Kalidasa, was decidedly slacken- 
ing. The successors of Kalidjisa pretend to hand down the 
tradition of their predecessor's great achievement, but what they 
lack in poetic inspiration, they make up by rhetoric in its full 
and varied sense. The whole literature is indeed so saturated 
with rhetoric that everything, more or less, takes a rhetorical 
turn. It seeks to produce, most often successfully, fine effects, 
not by power of matter, but by power of form, not by the glow 
of inspiration, but by the exuberance of craftsmanship ; and one 
may truly say that it is the age of cultivated form. If Kalidasa 
left Sanskrit poetry a finished body, the subsequent ages did no 
more than weave its successive robes of adornment. 

There is, therefore, an abundance of technical skill and 
technical skill of no despicable kind in the Mahakavyas of this 
period, but there is a corresponding deficiency of those subtle and 
indefinable poetic powers, which make a composition vital in its 
appeal. The rhetoric, no doubt, serves its own purpose in these 
poems, and no one can deny its vigour and variety; but it never 
goes very far, and often overreaches itself by its cleverness and 
excess. It breeds in the poets an inordinate love for itself, which 
seduces them to a prolixity, disproportionate to their theme, and 
to an extravagance of diction and imagery, unsuitable to their 
thought and emotion. This want of balance between matter 
and manner, which is rare in Kalidasa and which a true poetic 
instinct always avoids, is very often prominent in these lesser 
poets ; and their popularity makes the tradition long and deeply 
rooted in Sanskrit poetical literature. It degenerates into a 
deliberate selection of certain methods and means wholly to 
achieve style, and loses all touch of spontaneity and naturalness. 
To secure strength, needless weight is superadded, and elasticity 
is lost in harmony too mechanically studied. The poets are 
never slipshod, never frivolous; they are indeed f ar too serious^ far 


too sober either to soar high or dive deep. Theirs is an equable 
merit, producing a dainty and even effect, rather than a throb- 
bing response to the contagious rapture of poetic thought and 
feeling. As they never sin against art, they seldom reach the 
heaven of poetry. 

Nevertheless, the poets we are considering are not entirely 
devoid of purely poetic merit, even if they are conscious and 
consummate artists. The period, as we see it, is neither sterile 
nor inanimate, nor is it supported by the prestige of a single 
name. It is peopled with striking figures; and, apart from 
smaller poems of which we have spoken, the body of larger works 
produced is fairly extensive in quantity and not negligible in 
quality. Even if they do not reach the highest level, it is not 
necessary to belittle them. The qualities of the literature may 
not awn ken the fullest critical enthusiasm, but it is certainly 
marked by sustained richness and many-sided fullness. Of the 
four greater poets of this period, namely, Bharavi, Bhatti, 
Kunmradasa and Magha, it is curious that we possess only a single 
work of each. It is not known whether they wrote more works 
than what have survived. The verses quoted from these poets 
in the anthologies and rhetorical works are generally traceable 
in their extant poems ; but in view of the uncertain and fluctua- 
ting character of these attributions, the surplus of untraceable 
verses need not prove loss of other works which they are conjec- 
tured to have written. While Bharavi and Magha select for 
their themes particular episodes of the Mahabharata, Bhatti and 
Kumaradasa conceive the more ambitious project of rehandling the 
entire story of the Ramayana. All the four agree in choosing a 
heroic subject from the Epics but their inspiration is not heroic, 
and their treatment has little of the simplicity and directness, 
as well as the vivid mythological background, of the Epics. 

a. Bharavi 

Of the composers of the Mahakavya who succeeded 
Kalidasa, Bharavi is perhaps the earliest and certainly the 



foremost. All that is known of him is that he must be placed 
much earlier than 634 A.D., at which date he had achieved 
poetic fame enough to be mentioned with Kalidasa in the 
Aihole inscription of Pulakegin II. 1 As the inscription belongs 
to the same half-century as that in which Bana flourished, Baiia's 
silence about Bharavi 's achievement is somewhat extraordinary ; 
but it need not be taken to imply Bbaravi's contemporaneity or 
nearness of time to Bana. 

The subject-matter of the Kiratarjuniya 2 of Bharavi is 
derived from one of the episodes of Arjuna 's career described in 
the Vana-parvan of the Mahabharata* Under the vow of twelve 
years' exile the Pandavas had retired to the Dvaita forest, v where 
the taunt and instigation of DraupadI, supported by the vehe- 
ment urging of Bhlma, failed to move the scrupulous Yudhisthira 
to break the pledge and wage war. The sage Vyasa appears, and 
on his advice they move to the Kamyaka forest, and Arjuna sets 
out to win divine weapons from Siva to fight the Kauravas. 
Indra, in the guise of a Brahman ascetic, is unable to dissuade 
Arjuna, but pleased with the hero's firmness, reveals himself and 
wishes him success. Arjuna's austerities frighten the gods, on 
whose appeal Siva descends as a Kirata, disputes with him on 
the matter of killing a boar, and, after a fight, reveals his -true 
form and grants the devotee the desired weapons. This small 
,and simple epic episode is selected for expanded and embellished 
treatment in eighteen cantos, with all the resources of a refined 
and elaborate art. Bharavi adheres to the outline of the story, 

1 For the alleged relation of Bharavi and Dan<Jin, see 8. K. De in IHQ, I, 1925, p. 81 f , 
III, 1927, p. 396; also G. Harihara Sastri in IHQ, 111, 1927, p. 169 f, who would place 
Bharavi and Dandin at the close of the 7th century. The quotation of a pada of Kirata XIII. 
14 in the Kattka on Pan, i. 3, 23, pointed out by Kielhorn (IA, XIV, p. 327), does not advatce 
the solution of the question further. 

* Ed. N. B. Godabole and K. P. Parab, with the comm. of Mallinatha, NSP, Bombay 
1885 (6th ed. 1907); only i-iii, with the cojmm. of Citrabhanu, ed. T. Gnnaputi Sastri, 
Trivandrum Skt. Ser., 1918; trs. into German by C. Cappeller in Harvard Orient. Ser., xv, 

3 Bomb, ed., Hi. 27-41. 


but he fills it up with a large mass o( matter, some of which have 
hardly any direct bearing on the theme. The opening of the poem 
with the return of Yudhisthira's spy, who comes with the report of 
Suyodhana's beneficient rule, at once plunges into the narrative, 
but it also supplies the motive of the following council of war and 
gives the poet an opportunity of airing his knowledge of statecraft. 
The elaborate description of autumn and the Himalayas, and of 
the amorous sports of the Gandharvas and Apsarases in land and 
water, repeated partially in the following motif of the practice of 
nymphal seduction upon the young ascetic, is a disproportionate 
digression, meant obviously for a refined display of- descriptive 
powers. Apart from the question of relevancy, Bharavi's 
flavoured picture of amorous sports, like those of Magha and 
others who imitated him with greater gusto and created a 
tradition, is graceless in one sense but certainly graceful in 
another ; and there is, in his painting of natural scenery, a 
real feeling for nature, even if for nature somewhat tricked and 
frounced. The martial episode, extending over two cantos, of 
the rally of Siva's host under Skanda's leadership and the fight 
with magic weapons, is not derived from the original ; but, in 
spite of elaborate literary effort, the description is rather one of a 
combat as it should be conducted in artificial poetry, and the 
mythical or magical elements take away much of its reality. 

Bharavi's positive achievement has more often been belittled 
than exaggerated in modern times. Bharavi shares some of the 
peculiarities of his time and falls into obvious errors of taste, 
but in dealing with his poetry the literary historian need not be 
wholly apologetic. His attempt to accomplish astonishing feats 
of verbal jugglery in canto xv (a canto wliich describes a battle I) 1 

1 The puerile tricks of Citra-bandha, displayed in this canto, are said to have originated 
from the art of arraying armies in different forms iu the battle-field 1 Bat it is more plausible 
that they arose from the practice of writing inscriptions on swords aod leaves. They are 
recognised for the first time by Da^in ; but Magha appears to regard ^them (xix.41) as indis- 
pensable in a Mahakavja. Rudra^a deals with them in sutne detail, but they are discredited 
by Inandavardhana, suffered by Mammata io deference to poetic practice, and summarily 
rejected by ViSvanatba. 


by a singular torturing of the language is an instance of the 
worst type of tasteless artificiality, which the Sanskrit poet 
is apt to commit ; but it must have been partly the fault of his 
time that it liked to read verses in which all or some of the feet 
are verbally identical, in which certain vocables or letters are 
exclusively employed, in which the lines or feet read the same 
backwards or forwards, or in a zigzag fashion. One never meets 
with such excesses in Kalidasa ; it is seen for the first time in 
Bharavi, We cannot be sure, however, if Bbaravi originated 
the practice ; the deplorable taste might have developed in the 
interval ; but there can be no doubt that Bharavi succumbed to 
what was probably a powerful temptation in his day of rhetorical 
display ingeneral and of committing these atrocities in particular, 
'His pedantic observation of grammar, his search for recondite 
vocabulary, his conscious employment of varied metres are aspects 
of the same tendency towards laboured artificiality. His subject, 
though congenial, is not original; it is capable of interesting 
treatment, but is necessarily conditioned by its mythical charac- 
ter, and more so by Bharavi's own idea of art. But these patent, 
though inexcusable, blemishes, which Bharavi shares with all the 
Mahakavya writers of this period, do not altogether render nuga- 
tory his great, though perhaps less patent, merits as a poet and 


Bharavi as a poet and artist is perhaps not often first-rate, 
but he is never mediocre. It is seldom that he attains the full, 
hauntifig grace and melody of Kalidasa's poetry, but he possesses 
not a little of Tvalidasa's charm of habitual ornateness, expressed 
with frequent simplicity, force and beauty of phrase and image. 
There are occasional bursts of rare and elsewhere unheard music, 
but what distinguishes Bharavi is that, within certain narrow but 
impregnable limits, he is a master of cultivated expression.. He 
has the disadvantage of comi-ng after and not in the first flush of the 
poetic energy of the age; his poetry is more sedate, more weighted 
with learning jjid technique; but, barring deliberaii^rtificialities, 
he is seldom fantastic to frigidity or meditative to dulness. 


Bharavi 's subject does not call for light treatment. 
With his command of polished and stately phrase, he is quite 
at home in serious and elevated themes ; but the softer graces 
of his style and diction are also seen in the elegant effect which 
he imparts to the somewhat inelegant episode, not on love, but 
on the art of love, which is irrelevantly introduced, perhaps 
chiefly for this purpose. The beauty of nature and of maidens 
is an ever attractive theme with the Sanskrit poets, 
but even in this sphere which is so universally cultivated, 
Bharavi's achievement is of no mean order. Bharavi's 
metrical form is also skilled and developed, but his practice is 
characterised by considerable moderation. He employs about 
twenty-four different kinds of metre in all, most of which, 
however, are sporadic, only about twelve being principally 
employed. 1 Like Kalidasa in his two Mabakavyas, he employs 
mostly short lyrical measures, which suit the comparative 
ease of his manner, and avoids larger stanzas which encourage 
complexities cf expression. There is, therefore, no unnecessary 
display of metrical skill or profusion, nor any desire for unlimited 
freedom of verse. He gives us, in general, a flawless and 
equable music, eminently suited to his staid and stately theme ; 
but there is not much of finer cadences or of more gorgeous 

Bharavi's strength, however, lies more in the ^ descriptive 
and the argumentative than in the lyric touch ; and this he 
attains by his undoubted power of phraseology, which is indeed 
not entirely free from indulgence in far-fetched conceits, but 
which is never over-gorgeous nor over-stiff. His play of fancy 
is constant and brilliant, but there is always a calm and refined 
dignity of diction. Bharavi has no love for complicated 

1 In each of cantos v and xviii, we find sixteen different kinds of metre, but Bharavi 
does not favour much the use of rare or difficult metres Thj only metres of this kin I, which 
occur but on'y once eacSi, are J.iloddli-itagiti. Jalidhiramala, Candrika, Mattamayiha, 
Kutila and Vaqis'.ipiitrapatita. H mes, however, Vaita'Iya in ii, Pramitaksara in iv, 
Prabars-m in vii, Svagata in ix, Pu$pitagra iu x, Udgua in xii and Aupacchandasika ia xiii. 


compounds ; bis sentences are of moderate length and reasonably 
clear and forceful ; there is no perverse passion for volleys of 

for abundance of laboured adjectives, or 

for complexities of tropes and comparisons. He has the faculty 
of building up a poetical argument or a picture by a succession 
of complementary strokes, not added at haphazard, but growing 
out of and on to one another ; the application has vigour and 
variety and seldom leads to tedious verbiage. His phrases often 
give a pleasing surprise; they are expressed with marvellous 
brevity and propriety j it is impossible to improve upon them; 
to get something better one has to change the kind. 

Bharavi's poetry, therefore, is seldom overdressed, but bears 
the charm of a well-ordered and distinctive appearance. Of the 
remoter and rarer graces of style, it cannot be said there is none, 
but Bharavi does not suggest much of them. The Artha-gaurava 
or profundity of thought, which the Sanskrit critics extol in 
Bharavi, is the result of this profundity of expression ; but it 
is at once the source of his strength and his weakness. His 
maturity of expression is pleasing by its grace and polish ; it 
is healthful by its solidity of sound and sense ; but it has little 
of the contagious enthusiasm or uplifting magnificence of great 
poetry. One comes across fine things in Bharavi, striking, 
though quaintly put, conceits, vivid and graceful images, and 
even some distinctly fascinating expressions ; but behind every 
clear image, every ostensible thought or feeling, there are no 
vistas, no backgrounds ; for the form is too methodical and the 
colouring too^ artificial, Nevertheless, Bharavi can refine his 
expression without making it jejune ; he can embellish his idea 
without making it fantastic. His word-music, though subdued, 
is soothing ; his visual pictures, though elaborate, are convin- 
cing. If he walks with a solemn tread, he knows bis foothold 
and seldom makes a false step. In estimating Bharavi's 
place in Sanskrit poetry, we must recognise that he cannot give 
us very great things, but what he can give, he gives unerringly; 
he is a sure master of his own crafty 


b. Bhatti 

Bhatti, author of the Ravana-vadha, 1 which is more usually 
styled Bhatti-kavya presumably after his name, need not detain 
us long. The poet's name itself cannot authorise his identifica- 
tion with Vatsabhatti of the Mandasor inscription, 2 nor with 
Bhartrhari, the poet-grammarian. We are told in the concluding 
stanza 8 of the work that it was composed at Valabhi ruled over 
by Srldharasena, but since no less than four kings of this name 
are known to have ruled at Valabhi roughly between 495 and 
641 A.D., Bhatfci lived, at the earliest, in the beginning of the 
6th century, and, at the latest, in the middle of the 7th. 4 

The so-called Mahakavya of Bhatti seeks to comprehend, 
/hi twenty cantos, the entire story of the Ramayana up to Kama's 
return from Lanka and coronation ; but it is perpetrated deli- 
berately to illustrate the rules of grammar and rhetoric. It Is, 
in the words of the poet himself, like a lamp to those whose eye 
is* grammar; but without grammar, it is like a mirror in the 
hands of the blind. One can, of course, amiably resolve to read 
the work as a poem, ignoring its professed purpose, but one 
will soon recognise the propriety of the poet's warning 
that the composition is a thing of joy to the learned, and 
that it is not easy for one, who is less gifted, to understand 
it without a commentary. Sound literary taste will hardly 
justify the position, but there is not much in the work itself 
which evinces sound literary taste. 

1 Ed. Govinda Sankar Bapat, with comm. of Jayarnatigala, NSP, Bombay 1887 
ed. K. P. Trivedi, with comro. of Mallinatha, in Bomb. Skt. Ser., 2 vols., 1898; ed. J. N 
Tarkaratna, with comm. of JayamaAgala and Bbaratamallika, 2 vols., Calcutta 1871-78 
(reprint of Calcutta ed. in 2 vols., 1808). 

2 As suggested by B. C. Majumdar in JRAS, 1904, p. 306f ; see Keith in JRAS, 1909, 
p. 435. 

3 The stanza is not commented upon by Mallinatha. 

4 See Hultzsch in ZDMG, LXXI1, 1908, p. 145f t The work is of course known to 
Bbamaha, but since Bhamaha's date itself is uncertain, the fact is not of much chronological 
value. On the relation of Bbat^i'a treatment of poetic figures to that of Bbamaha, see 
S. K, De, Santkrit Poetict, I, pp. 61-57. 


Apart from its grammatical ostentation, the poem suffers 
from a banal theme. Bhatti attempts some diversity by intro- 
ducing speeches and conceits, as well as occasional description of 
seasons and objects, but the inventions are negligible, and the 
difficult medium of a consciously laboured language is indeed a 
serious obstacle to their appreciation. What is a more serious 
drawback is that the poet has hardly any freedom of phraseology, 
which is conditioned strictly by the necessity of employing only 
those words whose grammatical forms have to be illustrated 
methodically in each stanza; and all thought, feeling, idea or 
expression becomes only a slave to this exacting purpose. It 
must be said, however, to Bhatti's credit that his narrative flows 
undisturbed by lengthy digressions ; that his diction, though 
starched and weighted by grammatical learning, is without 
complexities of involved construction and laboured compounds; 
that, in spite of the inevitable play of word and thought, there 
is nothing recondite or obscure in his ideas; and that his versi- 
fication, 1 though undistinguished, is smooth, varied and lively. 

Even very generous taste will admit that here practically 
ends all that can be said in favour of the work, but it does not 
very much improve its position as a poem. If one can labour 
through its hard and damaiginj^^ one will 

doubtless find a glimmering of fine and interesting things. But 
Bhatti is a writer of much less original inspiration than his 
contemporaries, and his inspiration comes from a direction other , 
than the purely poetic. The work is a great triumph of artifice, 
and perhaps more reasonably accomplished than such later 
triumphs of artifice as proceed even to greater excesses; but that is 
a different thing from poetry. Bhatti's scholarliness has justly 
propitiated scholars, but the self-imposed curse of artificiality 

1 Like tbe early Mahakavya poets, Bhatti limits himself generally to shorter lyrical 
metres; lor ger metres like Mandakranta, SardiilavikrTdita and fragdhara being used but 
rarely. The loka (iv-ix, xiv-xxii) and Upajati i, ii, xi, and xii) are bis chief metres. Of 
uncommon metres, AiSvalalita, Nandana, Narkutaka, and Prabaranakaliba occur only once 


neutralises whatever poetic gifts he really possesses. Pew read 
his worst, but even his best is seriously flawed by his unfor- 
tunate outlook ; and, unless the delectable pursuit of poetry ie 
regarded as a strenuous intellectual exercise, few can speak of 
Bhatt-i's work with positive enthusiasm. 

c. Kumaradasa 

Kumaradasa, also known as Kuinarabhatta or Bhatta 
Kumara, deserves special interest as a poet from the fact that 
he consciously modelled his Janakl-harana. 1 in form and spirit, on 
the two Mahakavyas of Kalidasa, even to the extent of frequently 
plagiarising his predecessor's ideas and sometimes his phrases. 
This must have started the legend 2 which makes this great 
admirer and follower of Kalidasa into his friend and 
contemporary, and inspired the graceful but extravagant, eulogy 
of Kajasekhara, 3 quoted in the Sukti-muktavali (4. 76) of 
Jahlana. A late Ceylonese tradition of doubtful value identifies 
our author with a king of Ceylon, named Kumaradhatusena or 
Kumaradasa (circa 517-26 A. D.), son of Maudgalayana. Even 
if the identity is questioned, 1 the poet's fame was certainly 
widely spread in the 10th century ; for the author of the Kavya- 
mimamta (p. 12) refers to the tradition of the poet's being born 

1 Reconstructed and edited (with the Sinhalese Sauna), cantos i-xv and one verse of xxv, 
by Dharmarama Sthavira, in Sinhalese characters, Colombo 1891 ; the same prepared in 
Devanagarl, by Haridas Fastri, Calcutta 1893; i-x, ed. G. R. Nandargikar, Bombay 1907 
(the ed. utilises some Devanagarl Mss, but most of these appear to owe their origin to the 
Sinhalese source); xvi, ed. L. D. Barnett from a Malay alam Ms in BSOS 9 IV, p. 285f, 
(Roman text\ to wli h addl. readings furnished from a Madras Ms by S. K. Be in BSOS, 
IV, p. 611f. 

2 Rhys Davids in JRAS, 1888, pp. 148-49. 

3 The stanza punningly states that no one, save Kumaradasa, would dare celebrate the 
abduction of Slta (Janakl-harana) when Raghuvamta was current, as no one but Ravana would 
dare accomplish the deed when Raghu's dynasty existed. 

4 Keith in JRAS, 1901, p. 578f. Nandargikar, Kumaradasa and his Place in Skt. Lit. % 
Poona 1008, argues for a date between the last quarter of the 8th and the first quarter of 
the 9th century A. D., which seem* quite reasonable. RajasVkhara (Kdvya-mimdinsd ed. 
&OS, 1916, p. 26) quotes anonymously Janaki* harana, xii. 37 (madarp navai$varya). 

2f_ 1343B 


blind, and Kumaradasa's stanzas are quoted in the Sanskrit 
anthologies dating from about the same time. 1 

The entire Sanskrit text of the Janahi-harana has not yet 
been recovered, but the Sinhalese literature has preserved a 
Sanna or word-for-word gloss of the first fourteen cantos and of 
the fifteenth in part, 2 which brings the story down to Angada's 
embassy to the court of Eavana. From this gloss it has been 
possible to piece together a text, which is perhaps not a perfect 
restoration, but which cannot diverge very far from the 
original. 8 The extent of the original work is not known, but since 
the gloss also preserves the colophon and the last stanza of 
canto xxv, giving the name of the work and the author, it is 
probable that the poem concluded with the theme of Rama's 
coronation apparently bandied in this canto. If this is 
correct, then it is remarkable that Kumaradasa's poem 
exactly coincides, in the extent of its subject-matter, with 
the work of Bhatti. 4 Like the Ravana-vadha, again, the 
Janakt-hararia suffers from a banal theme derived from the Epic, 
although Kumaradasa's object and treatment are entirely 
different. In the handling of the story, Kumaradasa follows his 
original fairly faithfully ; but, for diversity, poetical descriptions 
and episodes are freely introduced. In the first canto, for 
instance, a picture of Ayodhya, which is rivalled by the account 
of Mithila in canto vi, is given, while the sports of Da^aratha 

1 For the citations see Thomas, Kvs. pp, 84-36. Kemendra in bis Aucitya-vicara* 
(ad 24) wrongly ascribes a stanza to Kumaradasa, of which one foot ia already* quoted bj 
Pitaftjali. Whether the poet knew the Katika (circa 650 A-D.) is debatable (see Thomas in 
JRAS, 1901, p. 266) ; and Vamana's prohibition (v. 1.5) of the use of khalu has no particulai 
reference to Kumaradasa. These and such other references are too indefinite to admit ol 
any decisive inference. 

1 The Madras Ms existing in the Govt. Orient. Mas Library, contains twentj 
cantos, but it is a very corrupt transcript of an unknown original, and it ia not 
known how far it is derived ultimately from the Sinhalese Sanna. The last verae of the Mg 
describes Kumaradata as king of Ceylon and son of Kumaramani. 

L^| UmaDn in WZKM * V1I 1893 ' PP- 226-32; F. W. Thomaa in JRAS, 1901 
pp. 204-OQ. 

* For an analysis of the poem, see the article of Thomas, cited above. 


and his wives in the garden are described in canto Hi. We have 
a fine description of the rainy season in canto xi, while the next 
canto matches it with a picture of autumn. In most of these 
passages the influence of Kalidasa is transparent. Da^aratha's 
lecture to Rama on the duties of kingship has no counterpart in 
Kalidasa's poems; but the appeal to Visnu in canto ii, the des- 
cription of spring in canto Hi, the entire canto viii on the 
dalliance of Kama and Slta after marriage, and Sita's lovelorn 
condition (Purva-raga) before marriage in the preceding canto, 
inevitably remind one of similar passages and episodes in Kalidasa's 
two poems. But these digressions are neither too prolix nor too 
numerous^ and the interest of the narrative is never lost. In 
this respect Kuinaradasa follows the manner of Kalidasa rather 
than that of Bharavi, and has none of the leisurely and extended 
scale of descriptive and erotic writing which prevails in the later 

The incomplete and not wholly satisfactory recovery of 
Kumaradasa's work makes it difficult to make a proper estimate ; 
but the remark is not unjust that the Janaki-harana, as a poem A 
is more artificial than the Raghu-varriSa and the Kumara- 
sambhava, perhaps more than the Kiratarjuniya, but it does not 
approach, in content, form and diction, the extravagance of 
the later Kavya. Some of Kumaradasa's learned refinements 
take the form of notable grammatical and lexicographical pecu- 
liarities, and of a decided love for circumlocution, alliteration 
and dainty conceits, but none of these propensities take an undue 
or elaborate prominence. His metrical skill is undoubted, but 
like Kalidasa in his two longer poems, he prefers short musical 
metres and does not seek the profusion or elaboration of shifting 
or recondite rhythmic forms. 1 Although. Kumaradasa has a weak- 
ness for the pretty and the grandiose, which sometimes strays 
into the ridiculous, he is moderate in the use of poetic figures ; 
there is some play upon words, but no complex puns. 

1 The only uncommon, bat minor* metre ia Avitaiha. 


Although Kumaradasa' s poem furnishes easy and pleasant 
reading, his poetic power is liable to be much overrated. The 
compliment which ranks him with Kalidasa, no doubt* perceives 
some superficial similarity, but Kumaradasa's originality in 
treatment, idea and expression is considerably impaired by his 
desire to produce a counterfeit. Possessed of considerable 
ability, he both gains and loses by coming after Kalidasa. He 
has a literary tradition, method and diction prepared for him for 
adroit employment, but he has not the genius to rise above them 
and strike out his own path. With inherited facility of execu- 
tion, he lo^es individuality and distinction. Kumaradasa is a 
well-bred poet who follows the way of glittering, but not golden, 
poetic mediocrity : he is admirable but not excellent, learned 
but not pedantic, neat but not overdressed, easy hut not simple. 
He has a gift of serviceable rhetoric and smooth prosody, but he 
is seldom brilliant and outstanding. He has a more than com- 
petent skill of pleasing expression, but he lacks the indefinable 
charm of great poetry. It is not easy to feel as much enthusiasm 
for Kumaradasa as for Bharavi ; but it is not just on that account 
to deny to him a fair measure, though by comparison, of the 
extraordinarily diffused poetic spirit of the time. 

d. Magha 

The usually accepted date for Magha is the latter part of the 
7th century A.D. The approximation is reached by evidence 
which is not altogether uncontestable ; but what is fairly certain 
is that the lower terminus of his date is furnished by the quota- 
tion from his poem by Vamana and Anandavardhana l at the fend 
of the 8th .and in the middle of the 9th century A.D. respectively, 

1 Dhvany&loka, ed. N8P, 1911, Second Uddyota, pp. 114, 115 = <5/^u v. 20 and iii. 58. 
A little earlier (end of the 8th century) Vatnana quotes from Maghft^^ii^/?ji^l2, 16Kdvy&L 
v. 1.10, v, 2.10; x. 21=*v. 1. 13; xiv. 14=iv. 3. jfc MukulabhaMa^ 
(ed. N8P, Bombay 1916, p. 11) similarly quotes- &ta iii, * Q -^ 


and the upper terminus by the very likely presumption that he 
is later than Bharavi whom he appears to emulate. There are 
five stanzas appended to Mcigha's poem which give, in the third 
person, an account of his family, and which are commented upon 
by Vallabhadeva, but not by Mallinatha. From these verses we 
learn that Magha's father wasDattaka Sarvasraya, and his grand- 
father Suprabhadeva was a minister of a king named Varmala. 
An attempt has been made to identify this Varmala (v.l. 
Varmalata, Dharmanabha or -natha and Nirmalata) with king 
Varmalata, of whom an inscription of about 625 A.D. exists. 1 
But neither is this date beyond question, nor the identification 
beyond all doubt. 

Like Bharavi, with whom Magha inevitably invites 
comparison, Magha derives the theme of his Stiupala-vadha 2 
from a well known episode of the Mahabhdrata ; 8 but the 
difference of the story, as well as perhaps personal predilection, 
makes Magha glorify Krsna, in the same way as Bharavi honours 
Siva. At Yudhisthira's royal consecration, Bhisma advises 
the award of the highest honour to Krsna, but Sisupala, king of 
the Cedis, raises bitter protest and leaves the hall. In the quarrel 
which ensues, Sisupala insults Bhisma and accuses Krsna of mean 

1 See Kielhorn in Gottinger Nachrichten, 1900, pp. 143-46, and in JRAS, 1908, 409f ; 
R. G. Bhandarkar, Report 1897, pp. xviii, xxxix ; D. R. Bbaudarkar in EI 9 IX, p I87f ; Pathak 
in JBRAS, XXIII, pp. 18-31 ; Kane in JBRA8, XXIV, pp. 91-95 ; D. C Bhattacharyya in IA t 
XLVI, 1917,p.l91f;H. Jacob! in WZKM, III, 1889, pp. 121f, and IV, 1890, p. 236f ; Klatt 
in WZKM, TV, p. 61 f. The minor arguments that Magha knew the Kdsikd or the Nydsa of 
Jitendrahuddhi (Siu* ii. 112) f or the Ndganandaof Harsa (xx. 44) are, for the iniefinitenesa 
of the allusions, hardly worth much. The Jaina legends have bocn invoked to prove that 
Magha was a contemporary of the poet Siddha (about 905 A.D.), but th* legends only show 
that the Jainaa made u?e of famous men ia tlieir anecdotes, and nothing more. More worth- 
less is the Bhoja-pTabandha account which makes Magha, as aUo m my other poets, a contem- 
porary of King Bhoja. The legend related in Merutunga> Prabandha-cMamani is equally 
useless. * 

8 ed. Atmaram Sastri Vetal and J. S. Hosing, with oomm^ o Vallabhadeva and 
Mallinatha, Kftshi Skt. Ser, no. 69, 1929; ed. Durgaprasad and Sivadatta. 
NSP, Bombay 1888, 9th ed. 1927, with coram. of M&llinatha only. Trs. into German by E. 
Hultzsch, Leipzig 1929, S|ia ^tracts, by a Cappeller (Balamagha), Stuttgart 1915, with 
text in roraan characters. & 


tricks, including theft of his affianced bride. Having endured 
SiiSupala's insolence so far, on account of a promise to his mother 
to bear a hundred evil deeds of her son, Krsna now feels that he 
is relieved of the pledge, and severs the head of SUupala with 
his discus. The epic story here is even simpler and more devoid 
of incidents than the episode of Arjuna's fight with the Kirata, 
but it contains a number of rival speeches, which give Magha 
an opportunity of poetical excursions into the realm of politics 
and moralising, vituperation and panegyric. The outline of the 
epic story is accepted, but its slenderness and simplicity are ex- 
panded and embellished, in twenty cantos, by a long series of 
descriptive and erotic passages deliberately modelled, it seems, 
upon those of Bharavi, A variation is introduced in the first 
canto by the visit of Narada to Krsna at the house of Vasudeva, 
with a message from Indra regarding the slaying of Si^upala ; 
but it has its counterpart in Bharavi's poem in the visit of Vyasa 
to Yudhis^hira. A similar council of war follows, in which 
Baladeva advises expedition and Uddhava caution ; and the know- 
ledge of statecraft displayed by Uddhava corresponds to that 
evinced by Bhima in Bharavi's poem. After this, Magha, like 
Bharavi, leaves the narrative and digresses into an even more 
luxuriant^ but disproportionate, mass of descriptive matter ex- 
tending practically over nine cantos (iv-xii), as against Bharavi's 
seven. Krsna's journey to Indraprastha to attend Yudhisthira's 
consecration and the description of the mount Raivataka, which 
comes on the way, correspond to Arjuna's journey and description 
of the Himalayas ; and Magha wants to surpass Bharavi in the 
Display of his metrical accomplishment by employing twenty- 
four different metres in canto iv, as opposed to Bharavi's sixteen 
in canto v. The amours and blandishments of the Apsarases 
and Gandharvas in Bharavi are rivelled with greater elaboration 
and succulence Tsy the amorous frolics of the Yadavas with 
women of fulsome beauty ; and it is remarkable that in some of 
these cantos Magha selects the same metres (Praharinl and 
Svagata) as Bharavi does. Magha makes a similar, but more 


extensive, exhibition of his skill in the over-ingenious construction 
of verses known ns Citra-bandha (canto xix), and follows his 
predecessor in introducing these literary acrobatics in the descrip- 
tion of the battle, although the battle-scenes are depicted, in both 
cases, by poets who had perhaps never been to a battle-field ! 

It is clear that the tradition, for once, is probably right 
in implying that Magha composed his $i$upala-vadha with a 
view to surpass Bharavi's Kiratarjumya by entering into a com- 
petetion with him on his own ground. 1 The orthodox Indian 
opinion thinks (with a pun upon their respective names) that 
Magha has been able to eclipse Bharavi completely, and even 
goes further in holding that Magha unites in himself Kalidasa's 
power of metaphorical expression, Bharavi's pregnancy of thought 
and Dandin's gracefulness of diction. While making allowance 
for exaggeration not unusual in such indiscriminate praise, and 
also admitting freely that Magha can never be mentioned lightly 
by any one who loves Sanskrit poetry, it is difficult for a reader 
of the present day to share this high eulogy. Magha's deliberate 
modelling of his poem on that of Bharavi, with the purpose 
of outdoing his predecessor, considerably takes away his original- 
ity, and gives it the appearance of a tremendous effort.) He can 
claim the literary merits of Bharavi, but he also exaggerates 
some of Bharavi's demerits. In respect of rhetorical skill and 
exuberance of fancy, Magha is not unsuccessful, and may have 
even surpassed Bharavi; but the remark does not apply in respect 
of real poetic quality, although it would not be just to deny to 
him a gift, even by comparison, of real poetry. 

But Magha's work, though not great, has been distinctly 
undervalued in modern times, as it was once overvalued. It is 

The question of Magha s ralationship to Bharavi has been discussed by Jacob! (in 
WZKM>lll t m$ t pp. 121-40) by a detailed examination of the structure of the two poeuas, 
their form, content and parallel passages, with the conclusion that Bharavi's poem served as 
a model for that of Magha. Jaoobi (p. 141 f.) further wants to show that Bana and 
Subandhu borrowed from M&gba, but the parallelisms adduced are not definite enough to be of 


impossible to like or admire Magha heartily, and yet there are 
qualities which draw our reluctant liking and admiration. His 
careful and conscientious command of rhetorical technique is 
assured. He has an undoubted power of copious and elegant 
diction, and his phraseology and imagery often attain a fine, 
though limited, perfection. OHis sentences have movement, ease 
and balance ; and the variety of short lyrical metres, 1 which he 
prefers, gives his stanzas swing and cadence. Magha himself 
tells us that a good poet should have regard for sound and sense, 
and so he cultivates both. Like Bharavi, he is a lover of har- 
monic phrases and master of cultivated expression, but he is 
perhaps more luxuriant, more prone to over-colouring, and more 
consciously ingenious. He can attain profundity by a free 
indulgence in conceit, but he is never abstruse. Fine felicities 
or brilliant flashes are not sporadic ; and Magha's faculty of 
neat and pointed phrasing often rounds off his reflective passages 
with an epigrammatic charm. He does not neglect sense for 
mere sound, but the narrative is of little account to him, as to 
most Kavya poets ;Cand the value of his work lies in the series 
of brilliant and highly finished word-pictures he paints} Prom 
the hint of a single line in the Epic, he gives an elaborate picture 
of Yudhisthira's consecration ; and he must bring in erotic 
themes which are even less relevant to his subject than 
that of Bharavi. In his poetry the Sastric learning and 
the rhetorical art of the time come into full flower, but it 
lacks the flush and freshness of natural bloom.) | At every step 
we go, we are stopped to admire some elegant object, like 
walking in a carefully trimmed garden with a guide. \ Magha 
can make a clever use of his knowledge of grammar, lexicon, 
statecraft, erotics and poetics ; he can pour his Jancy into a 
faultless mould ; but it is often an uninspired and uninspiring 
accomplishment. He would like to raise admiratioa to its 

1 On metres which Magha employs! see Belloai-Pbillipi, La Metrica degli Indi, 
Fiwnze 1912, ii, p. 55; Keith, HSL t pp. ld'j-31- On metrical licences of Magha, see 
F*cobi in Ind. Stud, xvii, p. 444 f. and in Verharid L dee V OrientaUtten>CoHgr48g, p. 136 f t 


height in every line, so that in the end the whole is not 
admirable. Of real passion and fervour he has not much, and 
he does not suggest much of the supreme charm of the highest 
poetry ; but he has a soft richness of fancy, which often inclines 
him towards sweetness and prettiness. Like Bharavi, he is a 
poet, not of love, but of the art of lovej but he can refine the 
rather indelicate theme of amorous sports with considerable 
delicacy. It is perhaps not fortuitous that Magha selects Krsna, 
and not Siva, as his favourite god. The Indian opinion speaks 
highly of his devotional attitude, and Blrisma's panegyric of 
Krsna, to which Bharavi has nothing corresponding, is often 
praised; but one at once observes here the difference in the 
temperament of the two poets. 

There can be no doubt that Magha is a poet, but his poetic 
gift is considerably handicapped by the fact that he is in verse 
a slave, and a willing slave, to a cut-and-dried literary conven- 
tion. He appears to possess a great reserve of power, but he 
never seems to let himself go. Tie does not choose to seek out an 
original path for himself, but is content to imitate, and outstrip, 
if possible, his predecessor by a meretricious display of elaborate- 
ness and ingenuity. The sobriquet Ghnnta-Magha, which lie is 
said to have won by his clever fancy in comparing a hill, set in 
the midst of sunset and moonrise, to an elephant on whose two 
sides two bells are hung, is perhaps appropriate in bringing out 
this characteristic ; but it only emphasises his rhetorical quality, 
which is a different thing from the poetical, although the quaint 
simile is not a just specimen of what he can do even in the 
rhetorical manner. ( Magha's extraordinary variety, however, 
is conditioned by corresponding inequality. His poem is a careful 
mosaic of the good and the bad of his predecessors, some of 
whose inspiration he may have caught, but some of whose 
mannerisms he develops to no advantage. Apart from deliberate 
absurdities, the appearance of his poetry is generally irreproach- 
able, with its correct make-up, costume and jewellery, but one 
feels very often that its features are insignificant and its 



expression devoid of fire and air* The fancy and vividness of 
some of his pictures, the brilliancy and finish of his diction 
make one feel more distinctly what is not there, but of which 
Magha is perhaps not incapable. The extent of his influence 
on his successors, in whose estimation he stands even higher 
than Kalidasa and Bharavi, indicates the fact that it is Magha, 
more than Kalidasa and Bharavi, who sets the standard of later 
verse-making ; but the immense popularity of his poem also 
shows that there is always a demand for poetry of a little lower 
and more artificial kind. 


Although it is difficult to distinguish between gnomic and 
didactic verse, the two Satakas of Bhartrhari on Niti and 
Vairagya may be taken as partially typical of the didactic 
spirit and possessing a higher value ihan, say, the collection of 
gnomic stanzas, which pass current under the name of Canakya 
and contain traditional maxims of sententious wisdom. Of the 
pronounced didactip type this period does not possess many 
other specimens than the Satakas of Bharlrhari, unless we regard 
the Moha-mudgara 1 for Dvadasa-panjarika Stotra) as one of the 
genuine works of the great Samkara. This latter work, however, 
is a small lyric, rather than didactic, outburst of seventeen 
stanzas, finely inspired by the feeling of transitoriness of all 
mortal things; while its moric Pajjhatika metre and elaborate 
rhyming give a swing and music to its verses almost unknown 
in Sanskrit, and probably betoken the influence of Apabram&t 
or vernacular poetry. As such, it is doubtful if it can be 
dated very early, but it is undoubtedly a poem of no small 

The gnomic spirit, however, finds expression from remote 
antiquity in many aspects of Indian literature. Such tersely 

1 Ed. J Haeberh'n in Kavya*rpgraba, Calcutta 1847, p, 263f, reprinted in 
J. Vidyasagar in Kavyasamgrahft, Calcutta 1888, p. 352 ; text and trs. 1 y P. Neve in JA t xii, 
P. 607f. For Stotras ascribed io Saipkara, see below under cb, VI (PevofcionaJ Poetry). 


epigrammatic sayings, mostly composed in the Sloka metre, 
appear in the Niti sections of the two great Epics, in the 
Puranas, in the law-books and in the tales and fables, while some 
of the earlier moral stanzas occurring in the Brahmanas perhaps 
helped to establish the tradition in the later non-Sanskritic 
Buddhist and Jaina literature. But the stanzas are mostly 
scattered and incidental, and no very early collection has come 
down to us, although the Mahabharata contains quite rich 
masses of them in the Santi, Anusasana, Prajagara. section of the 
Udyoga and other Parvans. That a large number of such stanzas 
formed a part of floating literature and had wide anonymous 
currency is indicated by their indiscriminate appropriation 
and repetition in various kinids of serious and amusing 
works mentioned above; but it would be hardly correct to say 
that they represent popular poetry in the strict sense of the term. 
They rather embody the quintessence of traditional wisdom, the 
raw materials being turned into finished literary products, often 
adopted in higher literature, or made the nucleus of ever-growing 
collections. They are of unknown date and authorship, being 
the wit of one and wisdom of many ; but they were sometimes 
collected together and conveniently lumped upon some apocryphal 
writer of traditional repute, whether he )e Vararuci, Vetala- 
bha^ta or Canakya. But the collections are often dynamic, the 
process of addition going on uninterruptedly for centuries and bring- 
ing into existence various versions, made up by stanzas derived 
from diverse sources. The content of such compilations is thus 
necessarily varied, the stanzas being mostly isolated but some- 
times grouped under particular heads, and embraces not only 
astute observations on men and things but also a great deal of 
polity, practical morality and popular philosophy. There is no- 
thing deeply original, but the essential facts of life and conduct 
are often expressed with considerable shrewdness, epigrammatic 
wit and wide experience of life. The finish of the verses naturally 
varies, but the elaborately terse and compact style of 
expression, sometimes with appropriate antithesis, metaphors and 


similes, often produces the pleasing effect of neat and 
clever rhetoric ; and their deliberate literary form renders all 
theories of popular origin extremely doubtful. 

It is unfortunate that most of the early collections are 
lost while those which exist are undatable ; but the one ascribed 
to Canakya and passed off as the accumulated sagacity of the great 
minister of Candragupta appears to possess a fairly old tradi- 
tional nucleus, some of the verses being found also in the Epics 
and elsewhere. It exists in a large number of recensions, of which 
at least seventeen have been distinguished, 1 and it is variously 
known as Canakya-nlti* Ganakya-$ataka,* Canakya-nlti-darpana, 4 
Vrddha-canakya 5 or Laghu-canakya. G The number of verses in 
each recension varies considerably, but the largest recension 
of Bhojaraja, in eight chapters, preserved in a Sarada 
manuscript, contains 576 verses in a variety of metres, among 
which the Sloka predominates. 7 Whether the lost original, 
as its association with Canakya would imply, was a deliberate 
work on polity is not clear, as the number of verses devoted to 
this topic in all recensions is extremely limited ; but there can 
be no doubt that, both in its thought and expression, it is one 
of the richest and finest collections of gnomic stanzas in Sanskrit, 
many of which must have been derived from fairly old sources. 

1 Oscar Kresaler, Stimmen indischer Lebensklugheit (Tndica, Heft 4), Leipzig 1907, 
pp. 38-46. Five recensions (viz.) Canakya-nltiastra, Canakya-niti-^ataka Laghu-eanakya, 
Vrddha -canakya and Canakya-sloka) are printed in Roman transliteration, with translation of 
previously unpublished stanzas, by Eugene Monseur, Paris: Ernest Leroux 1887. See aluo 
Weber Ind. Streifen, I, pp. 253-78. 

2 Ed. Mirzapore 1877 ; also a somewhat different version, ed. Agra 1920, mentioned by 

3 Ed. J. Haeberlin, op. cit. 9 reprinted by J. Vidyasagar, op. cit. 9 II, p. 385f. 

* Ed. Mathuraprasad Misra, Benares 1870 ; reprinted many times at Benares.. 

* Ed. Bombay 1868; trs. by Kressler, op. cit. t p. 151f. It has 840 verses in 17 chapters 
of equal length, 

< Ed. Agra 1920, as above ; also ed. E. Teza (from Galanos Ms), Pisa 1878. 

7 The other metres in their order of frequency are : Indravajra, SardulavikrKjita, Vasanta* 
tilaka, Vftms'athavila, SikbarinI, Arya and Sragdhara, besides sporadic Drntavilambita, 
PuspitagrS, Prthvl, Mandakranta, Maiini, Batboddbata, Vaitallya, VaisVadevI, Sftlini and 
HarinI See Kressler , op. cii. t p. 48, 


Of satire, or satiric verses in the proper sense, Sanskrit has 
very little to show. Its theory of poetry and complacent attitude 
towards life precluded any serious cultivation of this type of 
literature. Invective, lampoon, parody, mock-heroic or 
pasquinade all that the word satire connotes were outside 
the sphere of the smooth tenor and serenity of Sanskrit artistic 
compositions ; and even in the farce and comic writing the 
laughter, mostly connected with erotic themes, is hardly keen 
or bitter. They may touch our sense of comedy, but rarely our 
sense of satire, for the arrant fools and downright knaves are 
objects not of indignant detestation but of mild ridicule. Some 
amount of vivid realism and satirical portraiture will be found 
in the early Bhanas, as well as in the stories of Dandin, but 
they seldom reac|j the proportion and propriety of a real satire. 

The earliest datable work of an erotico-comic, if not fully 
satiric, tendency is the Kuttanl-mata 1 or 'Advice of a Procuress ' 
of Dfimodaragupta, which in spite of its ugly title and unsavoury 
subject, is a highly interesting tract, almost creating this 
particular genre in Sanskrit. The author was a highly respectable 
person, who is mentioned by Kahlana as a poet and minister 
of Jayapida of Kashmir (779-813 A.D.), and the fact that his 
work is quoted extensively in the Anthologies, as well as by 
Mammata, Hemacandra and others, bears testimony to its high 
literary reputation. The theme is slight. A courtesan of 
Benares, named Malati, unable to attract lovers, seeks advice 
of an old and experienced bawd, Vikarala, who instructs her to 
ensnare Cintamani, son of a high official, and describes to her 
in detail the cunning art of winning love and gold. To 
strengthen her discourse, Vikarala narrates the story of the 
courtesan Haralata and her lover Sudarsana, in which the 
erotic and the pathetic sentiments intermingle, as well as the 

1 Ed. Durgapraaad in Kavyamala, Gnochtka iii, NSP, Bombay 1887; but with ampler 
materials, ed. Tanaaukhram Manaasukhram Tripathi, with a Sanskrit commentary, Botabay 
1U24. Trs. into German by J. J. Meyer, Leipzig 1903. 


tale of the dancing girl Manjari and king Samarabhata of 
Benares, in which Manjari gives an enactment of Hara's 
Ratndvall and succeeds by her beauty and blandishments to win 
much wealth from the prince and leave him impoverished. With 
graceful touches of wit and humour, delicate problems in the 
doctrine of love are set forth; and in spite of the obvious grossness 
of its dangerous content, the work does not lack elegance of treat* 
ment, while the characters, though not wholly agreeable, are 
drawn with considerable skill and vividness from a direct obser- 
vation of certain social type,^. The pictures are doubtless 
heightened, but they are in all essentials true, and do not present 
mere caricatures. The chief interest of the work lies in these 
word-pictures, and not in the stories, which, though well told, are 
without distinction, nor in the subject-matter^ which, though 
delicately handled, is not above reproach. 

Although the Kuttanl-mata displays a wide experience of 
men and things, it is based undoubtedly upon a close study 
of the art of Erotics, the Vaisika Upacara or VaisikI Kala, 
elaborated by Vatsyayana and Bharata for the benefit of the raan- 
about-town and the courtesan ; but, on this ground, to reject it 
lightly as mere pornography is to mistake the real trend of the 
lively little sketch. There is indeed a great deal of frankness, 
and even gusto, in describing, in no squeamish language, the 
art and mystery of satisfying the physical woman; and the 
heroines of the stories are made the centres of coarse intrigues. 
Modern taste would perhaps -regard all this as foul and fulsome ; 
but there is no proof of moral depravity. On the contrary, the 
moral depravity, perhaps of his own times (as we learn from 
Kahlana), is openly and amusingly depicted by the author, not 
with approval, but with object of making it look ludicrous. As 
in most cpmic writings in Sanskrit, the erotic tendency prevails, 
and there is not much direct satire. But, even if his 
scope is narrow, Damodaragupta is a real humourist, who 
does not seek to paint black as white but leaves the 
question of black and white for the most part alone. At the 


conclusion of his poem, he tells us that any one who reads it 
will not fall victim to the deceit of rogues, panderers, and 
procuresses ; but his work is not a mere guide-book for the 
blind, the weak and the misguided. It is a work of art in which 
there is no didactic moralising, but which is characterised by 
direct and animated, but not merciless, painting of droll life, 
essentially of the higher grades of society. The poet sees two 
kinds of men in all walks of life rogues and fools ; but he 
neither hates the one nor despises the other. The result is 
comedy rather than satire, not virtuous indignation but enter- 
taining exposure of human frailty. Damodaragupta is a perfect 
artist in words and also a poet ; and the facetious style, couched 
in slow-moving and serious Arya stanzas, is eleganlly polished, 
yet simple and direct in polite banter and power of gentle 
ridicule. There is hardly anywhere any roughness or bitterness ; 
and the witty, smooth and humorous treatment makes the work 
unique in Sanskrit. If the atmosphere is squalid, it is not 
depressing, but amusing. Damodaragupta is daring enough to 
skate on thin ice, but he has balance and lightness to carry him 
through ; and if his onset is not biting, it is not entirely tooth- 
less. That the extraordinary coarseness of his subject never 
hindered the popularity of his work with men of taste and 
culture is a tribute to its innate literary merit. But we shall 
see that later authors like Kseraendrn, also a TCnshmirian, in 
trying to imitate him without his gifts, lapsed into bald 
realism, acrid satire or unredeemed vulgarity. The difficult type 
of literature, thus inaugurated, had great possibilities, but it 
never developed properly in Sanskrit. 




a. General Remarks 

The peculiar type of prose narrative, which the Sanskrit 
theory includes under the category of Katha and Akhyayika, but 
which, on a broader interpretation, has been styled Prose Romance 
or Kunstroman, first makes its appearance, in this period, in a 
fully developed form in the works of Dandin, Subandhu and Bana. 
But the origin of this species of literature is shrouded in greater 
obscurity than that of the Kav\a itself, of which it is presumed 
to be a sub-division We know at least of A^vaghosa as a prede- 
cessor who heralded the poetic maturity of Kalidasa, but of the 
forerunners of Dandin, Subandhu and Bana we have little infor- 
mation. The antiquity of this literature is undoubted, but no 
previous works, which might have explained the finished results 
diversely attained by these authors, have comedown to us. We 
have seen that the Akhyayika is specifically mentioned by Katya- 
yana in his Varttika ; and Patailjali, commenting on it, gives 
the names of three Akhyayikas known to him, namely, Vasava- 
datta, Sumanottara and Bhaimarathi ; but we know nothing 
about the form and content of these early works. The very title 
of the Brhatkatha and the designation Katha applied to the 
individual tales of the Pancatantra, one of whose versions is also 
called Tantrdkhyayika, indicate an early familiarity with the 
words Katha and Akhyayika, but the terms are apparently** used 
to signify a tale in general, without any specific technical conno- 
tation. 1 We know nothing, again, of the Carumati of Vararuci, 

1 The Katha and the Skhyayika are mentioned in Mahabhdrata ii. 11. 88 (Bomb. Ed.), but 
Wiiitermtz has shown (JRAS, 1903, pp. 571-72) that the stanza is interpolated. The Sanskrit 
ikhyayika, as we know it, has no similarity to Oldenberg's hypothetical Vcdic XJchyana; 


from which a stanza is quoted in Bhoja's &rhgara-'praka6a, nor of 
the tfudraka-katha (if it is a Katha) of Kalidasa's predecessor 
Somila (and Bamila), nor of the Tarahgavati of Srlpalitta, 1 who 
is mentioned and praised in Dhanapala's Tilakamanjarl and 
Abhinanda's Rama-carita as a contemporary of Hala-Satavahana. 
Bana himself alludes to the two classes of prose composition, 
called respectively the Katha and the Akhyayika, clearly intimat- 
ing that his Harsa-carita is intended to be an AkhyayikS and his 
Kadambari a Katha. He also offers a tribute of praise to writers 
of the Akhyayika who preceded him, and refers, as Subandhu 
also does, 2 to its division into chapters called Uccbvasas and to 
the occurrence of Vaktra metres as two of its distinguishing 
characteristics. Bana even mentions Bhattara Haricandra, to us 
only a name, as the author of a prose composition of high merit ; 
to this testimony the Prakrit poet Vakpati, in the 9th century A 
subscribes by mentioning Haricandra along with Kalidasa, 
Subandhu and Bana. 

It seems clear, therefore, that Bana is no innovator, nor is 
Haricandra the creator of the Prose Kavya, which must have 
gradually evolved, with the narrative material of the folk-tale, 
under the obvious influence of the poetic Kavya during a con- 
siderable period of time. But an effort 3 has been made to prove, 

for in the Akhyayika the prose is essential and the verse negligible. See Keith in JRAS t 
1911, p. 979 for full discussion and references. 

1 This is obviously the Dharraa-katha or Jaina religious story, called Tarangavati, of 
SrI-padalipta or Siri-palitta, who is already mentioned as Tarangavatikara in~tbe Anuogaddra, 
and therefore must have flourished before the 5th century A. D. The scene of the story is laid 
at grftvasti in the time of Udayana ; but the work is lost. Its romantic love-story, however, 
is preserved in the Tarahgalold, composed in Prakrit verse in 1643 A. D. According to 
E. Leumann, who has translated the Tarahgahld (Miinchen 1921), Sri-padalipta lived as early 
as the~2nd or 3rd century A. D. There is a tradition that he lived in the time of Salivabana. 
A MS dfcthe Prakrit work is noticed in the Descriptive Cat of MSS in the Jaina Bhandar at 
Pattan by L. B. Gandhi (G08, Baroda 1937), introd., p. 58. 

* Ed. F. Hall, p. 184. 

3 Weber in SB A W, XXXVII, p. 917 and Ind. Stud., XVIIT, p. 456 f ; Peterson introd. 
to Kadambari, 2nd ed., Bombay 1889, pp. 101-04. But Lac6te ccmea to the opposite conclusion 
of the borrowing by the Greek romance from the Sanskrit ! See discussion of the question 
by L. H, Gray, introd. to Vasavadatta (cited below), p. 86 f; Keith in JRAS, 1914, p. 1108; 
1915, p. 784 f , HSL t p. 865 f ; and Winternitz, GIL, III, p. 371 f . 


% adducing parallels of incident, motif and literary device, that 
the Sanskrit romance was directly derived from the Greek. Even 
admitting some of the parallels, the presumption is not excluded 
that they might have developed independently, while the actual 
divergence between the two types, in form and spirit, is so great 
as to render any theory of borrowing no more than a groundless 
conjecture. The Sanskrit romance, deriving its inspiration 
directly from the Kavya, to which it is approximated both by 
theory and practice, is hardly an exotic ; it is differentiated from 
the Greek romance by its comparative lack of interest in the 
narrative, which is a marked quality of the Greek romance, as 
well as by its ornate elaboration of form and expression, 1 which 
is absent in the naivete and simplicity of the Greek stories. It 
is true that the fact of difference need not exclude the possibility 
of borrowing ; but, as in the case of the drama, no substantial 
fact has yet been adduced, which would demonstrate the positive 
fact of borrowing by Sanskrit. 

So far as the works of the rhetoricians are concerned, the 
earliest forms of the Katha and the Akhyayika are those noticed 
by Bbamaba and Dandin. 2 In the Akhyayika, according to 
Bhamaha, the subject-matter gives facts of actual experience, the 
narrator being the hero himself ; the story is told in pleasing 
prose, divided into chapters called Ucchvasasand containing metri- 
cal pieces in Vaktra and Aparavaktra metre, indicative of future 
happening of incidents ; scope may be allowed to poetic inven- 
tion, and the theme may embrace subjects like the abduction of 
a maiden (Kanya-harana), fighting, separation and final triumph 
of the hero ; and it should be composed in Sanskrit. In the 

1 The Greek romance his, no doubt, a few specific instances of rhetorical ornaments, 
such as hom&iteleul a, parisosis, alliteration and strained compounds, but they are not com- 
parable to those in the Sanskrit romance, which essentially depends on them. There is 
hardly anything in Greek corresponding to the picaresque type of story which we find in 

1 * i fta, on this question, 8. K. De, The Akhyayika and the Katha in Ol&Mical Sanskrit in 
QSOS, III, 1M5, p, 60747 ; also J, Nobel, op. cit., p. 156 f, 


Katha, on the other hand, the subject-matter is generally an 
invented story, the narrator being some one other than the hero ; 
there is no division into Ucchvasas, no Vaktra or Aparavaktra 
verses ; and it may be composed either in Sanskrit or in 
Apabhram^a . It will be seen at once that the prototypes of this 
analysis are, strictly, not the two prose narratives of Bana, nor 
those of Dandin and Subandhu, but some other works which have 
not come down to us. It is worth noting, however, that the 
older and more rigid distinctions, embodied by Bhamaha, were 
perhaps being obliterated by the innovations of, bolder poets ; and 
we find a spirit of destructive criticism in the Kavyadara of 
Dandin, who considers these refinements not as essential, but as 
more or less formal requirements. Accordingly, Dandin does 
not insist upon the person of the narrator, nor the kind of metre, 
nor the heading of the chapter, nor the limitations of the linguis- 
tic form as fundamental marks of difference. This is apparently 
in view of current poetical usage, in which both the types were 
perhaps converging under the same class of prose narrative, with 
only a superficial difference in nomenclature. It must have 
been a period of uncertain transition, and Dandin's negative 
criticism (as also Vamana's brushing aside of the whole 
controversy) implies that no fixed rules had yet been evolved 
to regulate the fluctuating theory or practice relating to them. 

It is clear that the uncertain ideas of early theorists, as well 
as the extremely small number of specimens that have survived, 
does not give us much guidance in definitely fixing the nomen- 
clature and original character of the Sanskrit Prose Kavya. 
Nevertheless, the whole controversy shows that the two kinds of 
prose narrative were differentiated at least in one important 
characteristic. Apart from merely formal requirements, the 
Akhyayika was conceived, more or less, as a serious composition 
dealing generally with facts of experience and having an auto- 
biographical, traditional or semi-historical interest ; while the 
Katha waa essentially a fictitious narrative, which may sometimes 
(as Dancjin contends) be recounted in the first person, but whose 


chief interest resides in its invention. 1 These older types appear 
to have been modified in course of time ; and the modification 
was chiefly on the lines of the model popularised by Bana in his 
two prose Kavyas. Accordingly we find Budrata doing nothing 
more than generalising the chief features of Bana's works into 
rules of universal application. In the Akhyayika, therefore, Rudrata 
authorises the formula that the narrator need not be the hero 
himself, that the Ucchvasas (except the first) should open with 
two stanzas, preferably in the Arya metre, indicating the tenor 
of the chapter in question, and that there should be a metrical 
introduction of a literary character. All these injunctions are in 
conformity with what we actually find in Bana's Harsa-carita. 
The Katha was less touched by change in form and substance, 
but the erotic character of the story, consisting of the winning 
of a maiden (Kanya-labha), and not abduction (Kanya-harana) 
of the earlier theorists, was expressly recognised ; while, 
in accordance with the prevalent model of the Kadambarl, a 
metrical introduction, containing a statement of the author's 
family and motives of authorship, is also required. This 
practically stereotypes the two kinds in Sanskrit literature. It is 
noteworthy, however, that later rhetoricians do not expressly 
speak of the essential distinction based upon tradition and fancy, 
although they emphasise the softer character of the Katha by 
insisting that its main issue is Kanya-labha, which would give 
free scope to the delineation of the erotic sentiment. 

It is obvious that the prescriptions of the theorists are in- 
teresting historical indications of later developments, but they do 
not throw much light upon the origin and early history of the 
Sanskrit Prose Kavya. In the absence of older material, the 
problem is difficult and does not admit of a precise determination. 
There can hardly be any affinity with the beast-fable of the 
Paftcatantra type, which is clearly distinguishable in form, 

' The old lexicon of Ainara also accepts (i. 6. 5-6) this distinction when it says : akhya* 
yikopalabdharthd, and prabandhakalpand kath& t 


content and spirit ; but it is perhaps not unreasonable to assume 
that there was an early connexion with the popular tale of heroes 
and heroines, including the fairy tale of magic and marvel. This 
appears to be indicated by the very designation of the Brhatkatha 
as a Katba and the express mention of this work as a Katha by 
Dandin ; and the indication is supported by the suggestion that this 
early collection was drawn upon by Dandin, Subandhu and Bana. 
If this is granted, a distinction should, at the same time, be made ; 
for the Brhatkatha, in conception and expression, was apparently 
a composition of a different type. The available evidence makes 
it more than probable that the popular tale never attained any of 
the refinement and elaboration which we find in the prose 
romance from its beginning, in a less degree in Dandin and in 
more extravagant manner in Subandhu and Bana. From this 
point of view, the prose romance cannot be directly traced back 
to the popular tale represented by Gunadhya's work ; its imme- 
diate ancestor is the ornate Kavya itself, whose graces were 
transferred from verse to prose for the purpose of rehandling and 
elaborating the popular tale. It is not known whether the new 
form was applied first to the historical story and then employed 
to embellish the folk-tale, as the basis of the distinction between 
the Akhyayika and the Katha seems to imply; but it is evident 
that the prose romance was evolved out of the artistic Kavya and 
influenced by it throughout its history. The theorists, unequivo- 
cally and from the beginning, include the prose romance in the 
category of the Kavya and regard it as a kind of transformed 
Kavya in almost every respect, while the popular tale and the 
beast-fable are not even tardily recognised and given that status. 

It seems probable, therefore, that the prose romance bad a 
twofold origin. It draws freely upon the narrative material 
of the folk-tale, rehandles some of its natural and super- 
natural incidents and motifs, adopts its peculiar emboxing 
arrangement of tales and its contrivance of deux ex machina, 
and, in fact, utilises all that is the common stock-in-trade 
of the Indian story-teller. But its form and method of 


story-telling are different, and are derived essentially from the 
Kavya. Obviously written for a cultured audience, the 
prose romance has not only the same elevated and heavily orna- 
mented diction, but it has also the same enormous development 
of the art of description. In fact, the existing specimens com- 
bine a legendary content with the form and spirit of a literary 
tour de force. The use of unwieldy compounds, incessant and 
elaborate puns, alliterations and assonances, recondite allusions 
and other literary devices, favourite to the Kavya, receive greater 
freedom in prose; but stress is also laid on a minute description 
of nature and on an appreciation of mental, moral and physical 
qualities of men and women. From the Kavya also comes its 
love-motif, as well as its inclination towards erotic digressions. 
Not only is the swift and simple narrative of the tale clothed 
lavishly with all the resources of learning and fancy, but we find 
(except in Dandin's Dasakumara-carita) that the least part of the 
romance is the narrative, and nothing is treated as really important 
but the description and embellishment. From this point of view, 
it would be better to call these works Prose Kavyas or poetical 
compositions in prose, than use the alien nomenclature Prose 
Eomances, which has a connotation not wholly applicable. 

The evolution of the peculiar type of the Prose Kavya from 
the Metrical Kavya, with the intermediary of the folk-tale, need 
not have been a difficult process in view of the fact that the 
term Kavya includes any imaginative work of a literary character 
and refuses to make verse an essential. The medium is im- 
material ; the poetical manner of expression becomes important 
both in prose and verse. If this is a far-off anticipation of 
Wordsworth's famous dictum that there is no essential distinction 
between verse and prose, the direction is not towards simplicity 
but towards elaborateness. In the absence of early specimens 
of imaginative Sanskrit prose, it is not possible to decide whether 
the very example of the Prose Kavya is responsible for this 
attitude, or is itself the result of the attitude ; but the approxi- 
mation of the Prose Kavya to the Metrical Kavya appears to have 


been facilitated by the obliteration of any vital distinction between 
literary compositions in verse and in prose. But for the 
peculiar type of expository or argumentative prose found in tech- 
nical works and commentaries, verse remains throughout the 
history of Sanskrit literature the normal medium of expression, 
while prose retains its conscious character as something which 
has to compete with verse and share its rhythm and refinement. 
At no period prose takes a prominence and claims a larger place ; 
it is entirely subordinated to poetry and its art. The simple, 
clear and yet elegant prose of the Paiicatanlra is considered too 
jejune, and never receives its proper development ; for poetry 
appears to have invaded very early, as the inscriptional records 
show, the domain of descriptive, romantic and narrative prose. 
An average prose-of-all-work never emerges, and even in tech- 
nical treatises pedestrian verse takes the place of prose. 

b. Dandin 

The Daakumara-carita l of Dandin illustrates some of the 
peculiarities of the Sanskrit Prose Kavya^ mentioned above, but it 
does not conform strictly to all the requirements of the theorists. 
This disregard of convention in practice may, with plausibility, 
be urged as an argument in support of the identity of our Dandin 
with Dandin, author of the Kavyadar6a, who, as we have seen 
above, also advocates in theory a levelling of distinctions. But 
from the rhetorician's negative account no conclusive inference 

1 Ed. H.H. Wilson, London 1846 ;ed. G. Bdhler and P. Peterson, in two pts., Bon, bay 
1887, 1801, revised in one vol. by G. J. Agasbe, Bombay 1919; witb four comms. 
(Padacandrika, Padadfpika, Bhusana and LaghudTpika), ed. N. B. Oodabole and Vasudeva 
L. Pansikar, NSP, lOtb ed., Bombay 1925. (1st ed. with two comm., 1888; 2nd ed. 
witb tbree comm., 1889V Trs. into English (freely) by P. W. Jacob (Hindu Tales), 
London 1873, revised by C. A. Rylands, London 1928 ; by A. W. Ryder, Chicago 1927. 
Trs. into German by J. J. Meyer, Leipzig 1902, and by J. Hertel, in Ind. Erz&Mer 1-3, 
Leipzig 1902; trs. into French by H. Fauche in Une Tirade, ou drame, hymne, roman et 
poeme, ii, Paris 1862. Editions with Engl. trs. also published in India by M. R. Kale, 
Bombnv 1926, apd by C. Sankararama Sastri, Madras 1931 t 


is possible, and the romancer may be creating a new genre 
without consciously concerning himself with the views of the 
theorists.) The problem of identity cannot be solved on this 
slender basis alone ; and there is, so far, no unanimity nor im- 
pregnable evidence on the question. Some critics are satisfied 
with the traditional ascription of both the works to one Damjin, 1 
and industriously search for points to support it. However good 
the position is, errors in traditional ascription are not rare and 
need not be final. On the other hand, the name Dandin itself, 
employed to designate a religious mendicant of a certain order, 
may be taken as a title capable of being applied to more than one 
person, and therefore does not exclude the possibility of more 
than one Dandin. A very strong ground for denying identity of 
authorship is also made out 2 by not a negligible amount of 
instances in which Dandin the prose-poet offends against the 
prescriptions of Dandin the rhetorician. It is a poor defence 
to say that a man need not practise what he teaches; for the 
question is more vital than mere mechanical adherence to rules, 
but touches upon niceties of diction and taste and general outlook. 
\The presumption that the DaSakumara belongs to the juvenilia of 
Darujin and the Kavyadara is the product of more mature 
judgment is ingenious, but there is nothing immature 
in either work.j The general exaltation of the Vaidarbba 
Marga in the Kavyadartia and its supposed illustration in the 
DaSakumara supply at best a vague argument, which 
need not be considered seriously. That both the authors were 
Southerners is suggested, but not proved ; for while the indica- 
tions in the Kavyadar$a are inconclusive, there is nothing to 
show that, apart from conventional geography, 8 the author of 
the romance knows familiarly the eighteen different countries 

1 The attribution of three works to Dandin by Bajafokhara and the needless conjee- 
tares about them are no longer of much value; see 3. E. De, Sanskrit Poetics, I, p. 62 note 
andp 72. 

* Agaahe, op. ctf., pp. xxv-xxxv. 

3 Bee Mark Collins, The Geographical Data of the Rayhuvamta and the Da^akumdra- 
carita (Diss.), Leipzig 1907 f p. 46. 

DAN DIN 209 

mentioned in the course of the narrative. The geographical items 
of the Datakumara only reveal a state of things which existed 
probably in a period anterior to the date of Halrsavardhana's 
empire, 1 and suggest for the work a date much earlier than what 
is possible to assign to the KavyadarSa. It is true that the time 
of both the works is unknown ; but while the date of the 
Kavyadara is approximated to the beginning of the 
8th century, 2 there is nothing to show that the DaSakumara cannot 
be placed much earlier. 8 The use of rare words, grammatical 
solecisms and stylistic peculiarities of .the Daakumara again, 
on which stress is sometimes laid for a comparatively late date, 
admit of an entirely opposite, but more reasonable, explanation 
of an early date, which is also suggested by the fact that the 
romance has certainly none of the affected prose and developed 
form of those of Subandhu and Bana. (The picture of the 
so-called degenerate society painted by Dandin is also no argument 
for a late date; for it would apply equally well to the Mrcchakatika 
and the Gaturbhan'i, the earlmess of which cannot be 
daubted and to which the Da$akumara bears a more than 
superficial resemblance in spirit, style and diction. 4 

1 Maik Collins, op. fit., p. 9 f. 

2 S K De, Sanskrit Poetica t 1 t p 58 f, in spita of Keith'd advocacy (Indian Studies 
in honour of Lanman, Cambridge Mas*., 19*29, p. 167 f) of an earlier date for the Kavyad'irta 
on the ground of Dandin's priority to Bhamahi. This is not the place to enter into the 
reopened question, but there is still reason to believe that the presumption of Bhamaha's 
priority will survive Keith's strenuous onslaught. 

3 The alleged relation of Bharavi to Dandin of the Datakumti ra (see S. K De in 
IHQ I, p. 31 f; III, p. 395-96) ; G. Harihara Saatri in ibid, III, pp. 169-171), would place 
him towards the close of the 7th and beginning of the 8th century A. D.,~ a date which is 
near enough to that of Dandin of the Kavyftdarta ; but the reliability of the account is not 
beyond question (see Keith, HSL, preface, p. xvi). 

4 Weber (Indische Streifen, Berlin 1868, pp. 311-15, 353), Meyer (op. cit.. pp. 120*27} 
and Collins (op. eifc., p. 48) would place. Da/a7rwmfira some time before 585 A.D. In 
discussing the question, however, it is better not to confuse the issue by presuming beforehand 
the identity of the romancer and the rhetorician. Agashe's impossible dating at the 
llth or 12th century ia based on deductions from very slender and uncertain data. The fact 
that the DaSakumfaa in not quoted in the analogical literature before the llth century or 
that adaptations in the vernacular were not produced before the 13th, are arguments from 
silence which do not prove much. Agaahe, however, does not rightly accept the worthies* 



Dafakumara-carita, in its present form, shows, with 
Bana's two romances, the peculiarity of having been left 
unfinished, biit it also lacks an authentic beginning. ) The end is 
usually supplied by a Supplement in four Ucchvasas, called 
Uttara-pithika or Sesa, which is now known to be the work of 
a comparatively modern Deccan writer named Cakrapani 
Diksita, 1 son of Candramauli Diksita; but a ninth or concluding 
Ucchvasa by Padmanabha 2 and a continuation by Maharaja- 
dhiraja Goplnatha 3 are also known to exist. (The beginning is 
found similarly in a Prelude, called Purva-pithika, 4 in five 
Ucchvasas, which is believed on good grounds to be the work of 
some other hand than that of Dandin. ) The title Dafakumara- 
carita suggests that we are to expect accounts of the adventures 
of ten princes, but the present extent of Dandin's work proper 
contains, with an abrupt commencement, eight of these in eight 
Ucchvasas. The Purva-pithika was, therefore, obviously intended 
to supply not only the framework of the stories but also the 
missing stories of two more princes ; while the Uttara-pithika 
undertakes to conclude the story of Visruta left incomplete in the 
last chapter of Dandin's work. Like the Uttara-pithika, the 
Purva-pithika, which was apparently not accorded general 
acceptance, exists in various forms, 6 and the details of the tales 

legend, relied upon by Wilson, which makes Dandin an ornament of the court of Bhoja 
The reference to Bhoja-vaqiB** in Ullasa viii (ed. Agashe, p. 129) does not support this 
hypothesis, for Kalidasa also uses the name Bhoja x , referring probably to the rulers of 

1 Eggeling, Ind. Office Cat., vii, no. 4069/2934, p. 1553. 

2 Agashe, op. cit. t p. xxiv. 

3 Wilson, introd., p. 80; Eggeling, op. cit. t vii, no. 4070/1850, p\ 1554. 

4 Some MSS (e.g. India Office MS. no. 4059/2694; Rggeliug, op. cit., vii, p 1561) and 
some early editions (e.g., the Calcutta ed. of Madan Mohan Tarkalamkar, 1849) do not contain 
the Purva-pithika. The ed. of Wilson and others include it. Wilson ventured the conjecture 
that the Prelude is the work of one of Dandia's disciples; but iu view of the various forms 
in which it if now known to exist and also because it is missing in some MSS, this 
conjecture must be discarded. Some of the versions are also obviously late productions. 

* The version, which begins with the solitary benedictory stanza brahmanda-cchatra. 
dofitfa* and narrates, in five Ucchvisas.the missing stories of the two princes Puspodbbava and 
8on*dstta, along with that of the missing part of the story of Bfriavahana and his lady-toy* 


do not agree in all versions nor with the body of Dandin's 
genuine text. 

(So far as Dandin's own narrative goes, each of the seven 
princes, who are the friends and associates of the chief hero, 
Eajavahana, recounts his adventure, in the course of which each 
carves out his own career and secures a princely spouse. But 
the work opens abruptly with an account of Rajavahana, made 
captive and led in an expedition against Cainpa, where in the 
course of a turmoil he finds all the rest of his companions. By 
his desire they severally .relate their adventures, which are 
comprised in each of the remaining seven chapters. The 
rather complex story of Apaharavnrnmn, which comes 
in the second Ucehvasa, is one of the longest and best in 
the collection, being rich in varied incidents and interesting 
chiracters. The seduction practised on the ascetic Marici by 
the accomplished courtesan, Kamamanjari, who also deceives the 
merchant 'Vastupala, strips him to the loin-cloth and turns him 
into a Jaina monk ; the adventure in the gambling house; the 
ancient art of thieving 1 in which the hero is proficient ; the 
punishing of the old misers of Cainpa who are taught that the 
goods of the world are perishable ; the motif of the inexhaustible 
purse ; all these, described with considerable humour and vivid- 
ness, are woven cleverly into this tale of the Indian Kobin Hood, 

Avantiaundari is the usually accepted Prelude, found in moat MSS. and printed editions. Its 
spurious character has been shown by Agaghe. It is remarkable that the usual metrical 
beginning required by theory at the outset of a Katba or Akhyayika is missing here. The 
benedictory stanza however, is quoted anonymously in Bhoja's Sarasvatl-kan^Jidbharana 
(ed. Borooah, 1884, p. 114) ; the fact would indicate that this Prelude must have been pce6xed 
at least before llth century. Another Prelude by Bhatfca Narayana is given in App. to 
Agashe's ed., while still another in verse by Vinayaka in three chapters is noticed by 
Eggeling, op. cit. t vii, no. 40871/686a, p. 1553. M. ft Kavi published (Madras 1924) a 
fragmentary Avantisundarl-kathd in prose (with a metrical sumrmry called *Katha-$ara), 
which is ascribed to Dandin as the lost Purva-plthika of his romance, but this 19 quite 
implausible; see 8. K. De in IHQ I, p. 31 f and III, p. 394 f. 

1 On the art of thieving,, sec Bloomfield in Amer. Journ. of Philology, XLIV, 1923, 
pp. 97-193, 193-229 and Proc. of the Amer. Philosophical Soc., LIT, pp 61G-650 On burglnry 
as a literary theme, see L. H. Gray in WZKM, XVIII, 1904, pp 50-51. Sarvilaka in tfce 
is also a scientific thief, with hi* paraphernalia, like Apaharavarman. 


who plunders the rich to pay the poor, unites lovers and reinstates 
unfortunate victims of meanness and treachery. The next 
tale of Upaharavarman is not equally interesting, but it is not 
devoid of incident and character ; it is the story of the recovery of 
the lost kingdom of the hero's father by means of a trick, includ- 
ing the winning of the queen's favour, murder and pretended 
transformation 1 by power of magic into the dissolute king who bad 
usurped. The succeeding story of Arthapala is very similar in 
its theme of resuscitation of his father's lost rank as the disgraced 
minister of the king of Kasi, and incidental winning of Princess 
Manikarnika, but it has nothing very striking except the pretend- 
ed use of the^device of snake-charm. The fifth story of Pramati 
introduces the common motif of a dream-vision of the Princess 
Navamalika of Sravasti, and describes how the hero, in the dress 
of a woman, contrives (by the trick of being left as a deposit) to 
enter the royal apartments and have access to the princess ; but 
it also gives an incidental account of the somewhat unconven- 
tional watching of a cock-fight by a Brahman ! The sixth story 
of Mitragupta, who wins Princess KandukavatI of Damalipta in 
the Suhma country, is varied by introducing adventures on the 
high seas and on a distant island, and by enclosing, after the 
manner of the Vetala-pancavimati, four ingenious tales, 
recounted in reply to the question of a demon, namely, those of 
Bhumini, Gomini, Nimbavati and Nitambavati, all of which illus- 
trate the maxim that cunning alone is the way to success. The 
seventh tale of Mantragupta is a literary tour de force, in which 
no labial letters are used by the narrator, because his lips have 
been made sore by the passionate kisses of his beloved. It begins 
with the episode of a weird ascetic and his two ministering 
goblins, repeats the device of pretended transformation through 
magic into a murdered man, and places the incidents on the sea- 
coast of Kalinga and Andhra, The last incomplete narrative of 

1 On the art of entering another's body as a fiction- motif, see M. Blootofield in Proc, 
American Philosophical Soe. t LVI, 1917, pp. 1-48. 

Vi^ruta relates the restoration of the hero's proteg6, a young 
prince of Vidarbha, to power by a similar clever, but not over- 
scrupulous, contrivance, including the ingenious spreading of a 
false rumour, the use of a poisoned chaplet and the employment 
of a successful fraud in the name and presence of the image of 
Durga ; but the arguments defending idle pleasures, which speak 
the language of the profligate of all ages, as well as the introduc- 
tion of dancers and jugglers and their amusing sleight of hand, 
are interesting touches. 

It will be seen at once that Dandin 's work differs remark- 
ably from such normal specimens of the Prose Kavya as those 
of Subandhu and Bana ; and it is no wonder that its unconven- 
tionality is not favoured by theorists, in whose rhetorical treatises 
Dandin is not cited till the llth century A.D.CjThe DaSakumara- 
carita is rightly described as a romance of roguery. In this 
respect, it is comparable, to a certain extent, to the Mrcchakutika, 
which is also a drama full of rascals,) and to the four old Blianas, 
ascribed to Syamilaka, Isvaradatla and others; but rascality is 
not the main topic of interest in Sudraka's drama, nor is the 
Bhana, as a class of composition, debarred by theory from dealing 
with low characters and themes of love, revelry and gambling. 
.Dandin's work, on the other hand, derives its supreme flavour 
from the vivid and picturesque exposition of such characters and 
themes.) Although the romantic interest is not altogether want- 
ing, and marvel and magic and winning of maidens find a place, 
it is concerned primarily with the adventures of clever tricksters. 
(Dandin deliberately violates the prescription that the Prose 
Kavya, being a sub-division of the Kavya in general, should have 
a good subject (Sada^raya) and that the hero should be noble and 
high-souled. Gambling, burglary, cunning, fraud, violence, 
murder, impersonation, abduction and illicit love form, jointly 
and severally, the predominating incidents in every story;) and 
Mantragupta's definition of love as the determination to Assess 
de I'audace in Danton's famous phrase is indeed typical 
of its erotic situations. Wilson, with his mid-Victorian 


sense of propriety, speaks of the loose principles and lax 
morals of the work, and the opinion has been repeated in a 
modified form by some modern critics ; but the point is over- 
looked that immorality, rather than morality, is its deliberate 
theme. jhe Dasakumara is imaginative fiction, but it approaches 
in spirit to the picaresque romance of modern Europe, which 
gives a lively picture of rakes and ruffians of great cities.) (It is 
not an open satire, but the whole trend is remarkably satirical in 
utilising, with no small power of observation and caricature, the 
amusing possibilities of incorrigible rakes, unscrupulous rogues, 
hypocritical ascetics, fraudulent priests, light-hearted idlers, fervent 
lovers, cunning bawds, unfaithful wives and heartless courtesans, 
who jostle with each other within the small compass of the swift and 
racy narratives./ The scenes are accordingly laid in cosmopolitan 
cities where the scum and refuse of all countries and societies 
meet. Even the higher world of gocls, princes and Bralunans 
is regarded with little respect. The gods are brought in to 
justify disgraceful deeds in which the princes engage themselves ; 
the Buddhist nuns act as procuresses ; the teaching of the Jina 
is declared by a Jaina monk to be nothing but a swindle ; and 
the Brahman's greed of gold and love of cock-fights are held up 
to ridicule. Two chief motives which actuate the princes of wild 
deeds are the desire for delights of love and for the possession of 
a realm, but they are not at all fastidious about the means they 
employ to gain their ends. Their frankness often borders on 
cynicism and, if not on a lack of morality, on fundamental non- 

lit is a strange world in which we move, life-like, no doubt, 
in its skilful portraiture, but in a sense, unreal, being sublimated 
with marvel and magic, which are seldom dissociated from folk- 
tale. 1 ) We hear of a collyrium which produces invisibility, of a 
captive's chains transformed deliciously into a beautiful nymph, 
of burglar's art which turns beggars into millionaires, and of 
magician's charms which spirit away maidens. JThis trait appears 
to have been inherited from the popular tale, and Darwjin's 


indebtedness to the Brhatkatha has. been industriously traced. 1 
But the treatment undoubtedly is Dandin's own. ) He is success- 
ful in further developing the lively elements of the popular tale, 
to which he judiciously applies the literary polish and sensibility 
of the Kavya ; but the one is never allowed to overpower the 
other. The brier of realism and the rose of romance are cleverly 
combined in a unique literary form. In the laboured composi- 
tions of Subandhu and Bana the exclusive tendency towards the 
sentimental and the erotic leads to a diminishing of interest in the 
narrative or in its comic possibilities. JThe impression^ that one 
receives from Dandin's work, on the other hand, is that it delights 
to caricature and satirise certain aspects of contemporary society 
in an interesting period. Its power of vivid characterisation 
realises this object by presenting, not a limited number of types, 
but a large variety of individuals, including minor characters not 
altogether devoid of reality and interest.) There can be little 
doubt that most of these are studies from life, heightened indeed, 
but faithful ; not wholly agreeable, but free from the touch alike 
of mawkishness and affectation, fit is remarkable that in these 
pictures the realistic does not quench the artistic, but the merely 
finical gives way to the vividly authentic. IF ^We pass) from 
pageantry to conduct, from convention to impression, from abs- 
traction to fact.) There are abundant instances of tie author's 
sense of humour, his wit and polite banter, his power of gentle 
satire and caricature, which effectively contribute to the realism 
of his outlook. ) For the first time, these qualities, rare enough 
in the normal Sanskrit writing, reveal themselves in a literary 
form, and make Dandin's delightfully) unethical/) romancero 
picaresco,(not a conventional Prose Kavya, but a distinct literary 
creation of a new type in Sanskrits 

There is more matter, but the manner has no difficulty in 
joining hands with it. Dandin's work avoids the extended'scale 
and leisurely manner of proceeding, the elaborate descriptive and 

1 Agaabe, op. n't., p. xh f, 


sentimental divagations, tfce eccentricities of taste and extrava- 
gance of diction, which are derived from the tradition of the 
regular Kavya and developed to its utmost possibilities or im- 
possibilities in the imaginative romances of Subandhu and Bana. 
The arrangement of the tales is judicious, and the comparatively 
swift and easy narrative is never overloaded by constant and 
enormous digressions. The episodic method is old and forms 
a striking feature of Indian story-telling, but in the Da&akumara 
the subsidiary stories never beat out, hamper nor hold up the 
course oi the main narrative. Even the four clever stories in 
the sixth Ucchvasa are properly emboxed, and we are spared the 
endless confusion of curses and changing personalities and stories 
within stories. , 

Not only Dandin's treatment, but also (his style and diction 
are saved from the fatal fault of over-elaboration by his sense of 
proportion and restraint. He is by no means an easy writer, 
but there are no fatiguing complexities in his diction ; it is 
energetic and yet elegantly articulated/ It is not marked by any 
inordinate love for disproportionate compounds and sesquipedalian 
sentences, nor by a weakness for far-fetched allusions, complex 
puns and jingling of meaningless sounds. The advantage of such 
a style, free from ponderous construction and wearisome em- 
bellishment, is obvious for the graphic dressing up of its un- 
conventional subjects of a cheat, a hypocrite, an amorist or a 
braggadacio ; and the Kavya- refinements would have been wholly 
out of place. Occasionally indeed Dandin indulges in florid 
descriptions, such as we find in the pictures of the sleeping 
Ambalika or the dancing Kandukavati, but even in these cases he 
keeps within the limits of a few long sentences or only one printed 
page. There is an attempt at a literary feat in the avoidance of 
labial sounds in the seventh Ucchvasa, but it is adequately 
motived ; and Dandin wisely confines himself to a sparing use of 
such verbal ingenuity. It is not suggested that Dandin makes no 
pretension to ornament, but, in the main, his use of it is effective, 
limited and pretty, and not recondite, incessant arid tiresome, 


highest praise goes to Dandin as the master of vigorous and 
elegant Sanskrit prose ; and his work, in its artistic and social 
challenges, is undoubtedly a unique masterpiece, the merits of 
which need not be reluctantly recognised by modern taste for 
not conforming to the normal model. I 


In theory and accepted practice, the normal type o{ the 
Prose KSvya is illustrated, not by the work of Dandin, but by 
those of Subandhu and Bana. In these typical Prose Kavyas, 
however, there is less exuberance of life, the descriptions are 
more abundant and elaborate, the narrative is reduced to a 
mere skeleton, learning loads the wings of fancy, and the style 
and treatment lack ease and naturalness. They have no ruffian 
heroes, nor dubious adventures, but deal with chaste and noble, 
if somewhat sentimental and bookish, characters. They employ 
all the romantic devices, derived from folk-tale, of reborn heroes 
and transformed personages in a dreamland of marvellous but 
softer adventure, and present them in a gorgeous vehicle of 
elaborately poetical, but artificial, style. 

The date of Subandhu, author of the Vasavadatta, 1 is not 
exactly known. Attempts have been made to establish its upper 
and the lower terminus, respectively, by Subandhu's punning 
allusion, on the one hand, to the Uddyotakara 2 and a supposed 
work of Dlmrmakirti," belonging at least to the middle of the 

1 Ed. P. Hall, Bibl. InJ., with comm. of Siv<mlina Tripatbin, Calcutta 1859, reprinted 
ilmoat verbatim by J. Vidyasagar, Calcutta 1S74, 3rd ed. 1907 ; ed. R. V. Krishnama- 
ihariar with his own comm., Sri Yani-vilasa Press, Srirangatn 1906; ed. Louis 
3. Gray, in roman characters, Columbia University Press, New York 1913. Sivarama 
>elon*s to the 18rti century ; see S K. De, Sanskrit Poetics, I, p. 318. There is also an earlier 
somm. of Jagaddhara which deserves publication. 

2 nyaya-sthitim (v. 1. -vidy&m) ivoddyotakara-svarupam (ed. Hall, p. 235; ed. 
Srirangam, p, 803; ed. Gray, p. 180). 

8 bauddha-sawgatim (v. 1. sat-kavi-kavya-racanam) ivalatiikara-bhujitam, he. cit. 
!t is remarkable that the reading is not found in all Mss (Hall, p. 236), and no work of 
^barmaklrti's called BauddhasarpgatyalaipkSra has yet been found. L*vi (Bulletin de 
'E'cole Francis d'Extrime-Orient, 1903, p. 18) denies that Subandhu alludes to Dharmaklrti's 
iterary activity. 

28 1343B 


sixth century A.D., and, on the Bother, by Bana's allusion to a 
Vasavadatta, which is supposed to be the same as Subandhu's 
work of that name, in the preface to his Harsa-carita, 1 composed 
early in the seventh century. 2 But it must be recognised that 
the question is not free from difficulty, Neither the date of 
Dharmakirti nor that of the Uddyotakara can be taken as 
conclusively settled; nor is it beyond question, in the absence of 
the author's name, that Bana really alludes to Subandhu's work. 
Even if the early part of the 7th century is taken to be 
the date of Dharmakirti and the Uddyotakara, it would make 
Subandhu a contemporary of Bana. The traditional view that 
Bana wrote his romance to surpass that of Subandhu probably 
arose from Bana's qualification of his own Kadamban (st, 20) 
by the epithet ati-dvayl ' surpassing the two,' these two being, 
according to the very late commentator, 8 Subandhu's Vasavadatta 
and Gunadhya's Brhatkatha. But the doubt expressed, 4 though 
later abandoned, 5 by Peterson has been lately revived. Since the 
arguments on both sides of the question 6 proceed chiefly on the 

1 Stanza 11. The argument that Bana, by the use of Sle?a in this stanza, mean* to 
imply Subandhu's fondness for it, is weak; for Bana usea Slesa also in the stanzas on Bbasa 
and the Brhatkatha. 

8 Among other Inerary or historical allusions made by Subandhu, the reference to 
Vikramaditya and Kanka in the tenth introductory stanza bus been made the basis of entirely 
problematic conjectures by Hall (p. 6), Hoernle (JRAS, 1903, p. 545f) and B. C. Mazumdar 
(JRAS, 1907, p. 406f); see L, H. Gray, introd., p. 8f. The description of Kusumapura and 
Subandbu's practice of the Gaud! Biti may suggest that he WAS an eastern writer, but the 
geography of the work is too conventional and the argument on Biti too indefinite to be 
decisive. There are two other punning allusions by Subandhu, apparently to a Gana-karika" 
with a Vrtti by Surap&la (cd. Srirangam, p. 314) and an obscurely mentioned work by 
Kamalfikara-bhikgu (p. 319); but these have not yet been sufficiently recognised and traced. 

1 Bhnudatta, the commentator, belongs to the 16th century. But the phrase ati-dvayl 
is not grammatically correct, and the reading appears to be doubtful. Possibly it is a 
graphical scribal error for aniddhaya (qualifying dhiya) read by other commentators (c/. OLD, 
IV, no. 2, 1941, p. 7). 

* Inirod. to Kadamban, pp. 71-73. * Introd. to Sbhv, p. 183 

* See Kane, introd. to Har$a>carita> p. xif ; Weber, Inditche S tret fan, 
Berlin 1868, I, pp. 369-86; Telang in JBRAS XVIII, 1891, p. 147f; W. Cartellieri in 
WZKM> I, 1887, pp. 115-3i; F. W. Thomas in WZKM, XII, 1898, pp. 21-33 f 
alto in JRAS, 1920, pp. 386.387; Mankowski iu WZKM t XV, 1901, p. 246f' 
Keith in JftAS, 1914 (arguing that Subandhu cannot be safely ascribed to a period substantially 


debatable grounds of the standard of taste and morals, and of style 
and diction, it is scarcely possible to express a final opinion 
without being dogmatic. The only one characteristic difference 
of Subandhu's prose from that of Bana, apart from its being 
uninspiring, is the excessive, but self-imposed, use of 
paronomasia (Slesa); but this argues neither for priority nor 
posteriority, but only suggests the greater currency of this figure 
of speech in this period. The only certain point about 
Subandhu's date is the fact that in the first half of the 
8th century, Vakpati in his Prakrit poem Gaudavaho (at. 800) 
connects Subandbu's name with those of Bhasa, Kalidasa and 
Haricandra, and a little later in the same century, Vamana quotes 
anonymously l a passage which occurs, with a slight variation, in 
Subandhu's Vasavadatta. 2 

With the Vasavadatta of the Udayana legend, made famous . 
by various poets in Sanskrit literature, Subandhu's romance has 
nothing common except the name ; and since the story, as told by 
Subandhu, does not occur elsewhere in any form, it appears to be 
entirely invented and embellished by our poet. But the plot is 
neither rich nor striking. The handsome prince Kandarpaketu, 

before 650 A.D.); Sivaprasad Bhattacharya iti IHQ, IV, 1929, p. 699f. There is one passage 
to wh cb attention does appear to have been drawn, but it is no less important, it describes 
the passionate condition of Vasavadatta at the sight of Kandarpaketu and runs thus : 

hrdayam vtlikhttam iva utkirnam iva t pratyuptam iva, kllitam iva vajralepa-gha^itam 

iva marmantara-sthitam iva, which appears to be reproduced in a metrical form in the 

following three lines from Bhavabhuti's Malati-madhava (v. 10) : 

lineva pratibimbiteva hkhitevotkirna-riipeva ca 
pratyupteva ca vaJTalepa-ghatitevantaTmkhdteva ca \ 
sa na cetasi ktliteva vitikhaiS cetobhuvah paftcabhih... 

The verbal resemblance cannot be dismissed as accidental; but considering that BhavabhQti 
here improves upon what he weaves into the texture of his poem and also the fact that 
Bhavabhuti is known to have borrowed phrases from Kllidasa, the presumption of borrowing 
on the part of Bhavabhuti is likely. 

1 Kavyalarpk&ra i. 3.26 (kulia-sikhara'khara'nakhara) = V&savadattd, ed, Sriraran- 
gaiu, p. 3S1 and ed. Hall, p. 226. 

2 For other references to Subandhu and his work see Gray, pp. 34. Gray is right in 
thinking that the reference in the DaMtimSra* to Vasavadatta clearly alludes to the story of 
Udayana and Vasvadatt&, and not to Vasavadatta of Subandhu '0 romance. 


son of Cintaraani, beholds in a dream a lovely maiden; and, 
setting out with his friend Makaranda in search of the unknown 
beloved and resting at night in the Vindhya hills under a tree, he 
overhears the conversation of a couple of parrots that princess 
Vasavadatta of Pataliputra, having similarly dreamt of Kandarpa- 
ketUj has sent her pet parrot, Tamalika, to find him. With the 
help of the kindly bird, the lovers unite ; but as Srngarasekhara, 
father of the princess, plans her marriage with a Vidyadhara 
chief, the lovers elope on a magic steed to the Vindbya bills. 
Early in the morning, while Kandarpaketu is still asleep, Vasava- 
datta, straying into the forest, is chased by - two gangs of 
Kiratas ; but as they fall out and fight for her, she eludes tbem 
but trespasses into- a hermitage,' where she is turned into stone 
by the curse of the unchivalrous ascetic. Kandarpaketu, deterred 
from self-destruction by a voice from the sky, finds her after a 
a long search, and at his touch the curse terminates. 

It will be seen that the central argument of such tales is 
weak and almost insignificant. The general scheme appears to 
consist of the falling in love of a passionate hero with a heroine 
of the fair and frail type, and their final union after a series of 
romantic adventures, in which all the narrative motifs * of dream- 
vision, talking parrots, magic steed, curse, transformation and 
voice in the air are utilised. But the interest of the story-telling 
lies not in incident, but in minute portraiture of the personal 
beauty of the lovers and their generous qualities, their ardent, 
if sentimental, longing for each other, the misfortune obstruct- 
ing the fulfilment of their desires, their pangs of thwarted love, 
and the preservation of their love through all trials and difficul- 
ties until their final union. All this is eked out lavishly by the 
romantic commonplaces of the Kavya, by highly flavoured 
descriptions of cities, battles, oceans, mountains, seasons, sunset, 
inoonrise and the like, and by the display of enormous Sastric 

2 A list of these are made out by Cartellieri, op. cit. For a study of these motifs as 
literaiy devices see Gray in WZKM , XVIII, 1904, p. 89f. 


learning and technical skill. Subandhu's poverty of invention 
and characterisation, therefore, is not surprising ; and criticism 
has been, not unjustly, levelled against the absurdities and incon- 
sistencies of his story. But the slenderness of the theme is not so 
much a matter of importance to Subandhu as the manner of 
developing or over-developing it. Stress has been rightly laid 
on his undoubted, if somewhat conventional, descriptive power ; 
but the more than occasional descriptive digressions, forming the 
inseparable accessory of the Kavya, constitute the bulk of bis 
work, and are made merely the means of displaying his luxuriant 
rhetorical skill and multifarious learning. The attractiveness of 
the lady of Kandarpaketu's vision, for instance, is outlined in a 
brief sentence of some one hundred and twenty lines only ! The 
wise censure of Anandavardhana 1 that the poets' are often regard- 
less of theme and sentiment and exceedingly engrossed in verbal 
tricks is more than just in its application to the Prose Kavya of 
this type. 

It must, however, be said to Subandhu's credit that 
he is not overfond of long rolJing compounds, and even when 
they occur, they are not altogether devoid of majesty and melody. 
When he has no need for a long sentence, he can write short 
ones, and this occurs notably in the brief dialogues. The sound- 
effects are not always tedious, nor his use of words always 
atrocious. What becomes wearisome in its abundance is 
Subandhu's constant search for conceits, epithets and similes 
expressed in endless strings of paronomasia (Slesa) and apparent 
incongruity (Virodhabhasa). For this reason, even his really 
coruscating ideas and images become more brilliant than lumi- 
nous. When we are told that a lady is rahta-pada like a 
grammatical treatise, her feet being painted with red lacquer as 
sections of grammar with red lines, or that the rising sun is 
blood- coloured, because the lion of dawn clawed the elephant of 
the night, we are taken to the - verge of ludicrous fancy ; but 

1 Dhvanyaloka, ed. NSP, Bombay 1911, p. 161. 



such instances abound from page to page. 1 In a stanza, the 
genuineness of which, however, is doubted, Subandhu describes 
his own work as a treasure-bouse of literary dexterity, and 
declares that he has woven a pun in every syllable of his com- 
position. We h rt ve indeed the dictum of the KavyadarSa (ii. 362) 
that paronomas i generally enhances the charm of all poetic 
figures, and the extraordinary resources of Sanskrit permit its 
effective use, but the rhetorician probably never means that the 
paronomasia should overshadow everything. The richness of 
Subandhu's fancy and his ingenuity in this direction is indeed 
astonishing and justifies his boasting ; but it cannot be said that 
he has flsed this figure with judgment or with the sense of 
visualisation which makes this, as well as other, figures a 
means of beautiful expression. Subandhu's paronomasias are 
often far-fetched and phantas-rnagoric, adduced only for the 
sake of cleverness, and involve much straining and even torturing 
of the language. It is true that in the stringing together of puns 
Subandhu does not stand alone. Bana also makes much use 
pf it, and refers to this habit of the Katha when he describes 
it as nirantara-6lesa-ghana. But Bana never indulges in 
unceasing fireworks of puns and other devices, and his poetic 
imagination and power of picturesque description make 
ample amends for all his weakness for literary adornment. 
Subandhu, on the other hand, lacks these saving graces ; nor 
does he command the humour, vigour and variety of Dandin. He 
becomes, therefore, a willing victim of the cult of style, which 
believes that nothing great can be produced in the ordinary way. 
In order to appreciate Subandhu's literary accomplishment 
this fact should be borne in mind ; and it ia as unnecessary as it 
is hypercritical either to depreciate or exaggerate his merits 
unduly. It should be conceded that, in spite of its fancy, pathos 
and sentiment, Subandhu's work is characterised by an element 

* Kriftbcamacbariar has given (op. ctt., p. xixf) an almost exhaustive list of instances 
of 8abodtm'0 verbal accomplishment. 


of mere trick which certainly impairs its literary value ; but it 
should not be assumed that it is a stupendous trifle, which 
enjoyed a fame and influence disproportionate to its worth. Bana 
is doubtless a greater poet and can wield a wonderful spell of 
language, but Subandhu's method and manner of story-telling do 
not differ much from those of Bana, and conform to the general 
scheme of the Prose Kavya. But for his excessive fondness for 
paronomasia, Subandhu's style and diction are no more tyranni- 
cally mannered than those of Bana ; and parallelisms in words 
and ideas have been found in the respective works of the two 
poets. It is true that Subandhu's glittering, but somewhat cold, 
fancy occupies itself more with the rhetorical, rather than with 
the poetical, possibilities of his subject ; but making allowance 
for individual traits, one must recognise the same technique and 
paraphernalia in both Subandhu and Bana. They deal with the 
self-same commodities ; and if richness of vocabulary, wealth of 
description, profusion of epithets, similes and conceits, and 
frequency of learned allusions are distinctive of Subandhu, they 
are also found in Bfuia. Whatever difference there is between 
the two romancers, it is one not in kind but in degree. 

It would appear, therefore, that both Subandhu and Bana 
exhibit in their works certain features of the Sanskrit prose 
narrative which, being of the same character, must have belonged 
to the general literary tendency of the time. The tendency is 
not so apparent in Dandin, but in Subandhu and Bana it is 
carried to its extreme ; and we find, more or less, a similar 
phenomenon in poetry, as we pass from Bharavi to Magha. It 
is, however, a facile explanation which puts it down to incom- 
petence, bad taste or queer mentality ; the question has a deeper 
historical significance, perhaps more in prose than in poetry. 
Louis H. Gray calls attention to certain stylistic similarities 
between Subandhu's Vasavadatta and Lyly's Eupheus ; but if 
there is any point in drawing a parallel, it lies precisely in the 
fact that the work of the Sanskrit stylist, like that of the 
Elizabethan mannerist, is a deliberate attempt to achieve a rieh A 


variegated and imaginative prose style, although like all deli- 
berate attempts it is carried to fantastic excess. The ornate and 
fanciful style tends to the florid and extravagant, and needs to be 
restrained and tamed ; but the plain style inclines equally towards 
the slipshod and jejune, and needs to be raised and inspired. 
The plain style, evidenced in the Pancatantra, is indeed well 
proportioned, clear and sane, and is suitable for a variety of liter- 
ary purpose, but it is ill fitted for fanciful, gorgeous or passion- 
ate expression ; it is constantly liable, when not used with 
something more than ordinary scholarship and taste, to degene- 
rate into commonness or insipidity. Neither Subandhu nor 
Bana may have evolved a properly ornate style, suitable for 
counteracting these perils and for elevated imaginative writing, 
but their inclination certainly points to this direction. It is not 
the rhetorical habit in these writers which annoys, but their use 
of rhetoric, not in proportion, but out of proportion, to their 
narrative, description, idea or feeling. Perhaps in their horror 
of the commonplace and in their eagerness to avoid the danger of 
being dull, they proceed to the opposite extreme of too heavy 
ornamentation, and thereby lose raciness, vigour and even sanity ; 
but for this reason the worthiness of their motive and the 
measure of success which they achieved should not be missed. 
We have an interesting illustration here of what occurs every- 
where, namely the constantly recurring struggle between the 
plain and the ornate style ; but in trying to avoid plainness, 
these well-meaning but unbalanced writers practically swamp it 
with meaningless ornateness, by applying to prose the ill-fitting 
graces and refinements of poetry. The gorgeous standard, which 
they set up, is neither faultless nor easy to follow, but it is curi- 
ous that it is never questioned for centuries. It is a pity that 
their successors never realise their literary motive, but only 
exaggerate their literary mannerisms. It was for <the later writers 
to normalise the style by cutting down its early exuberant excesses, 
but it is strange that they never attempted to do so. Perhaps they 
fell under the fascination of its poetical magnificence, and were 


actuated by the theory which approximated prose to poetry and 
affiliated the prose Kavya to the metrical. There has never been, 
therefore, in the later history of Sanskrit prose style, a real ebb 
and flow, a real flux between maxima and minima. It is for 
this reason perhaps that the perfect prose style, which keeps the 
golden mean between the plain and the ornate, never developed in 

There is, thus, no essential difference of literary inspiration 
between Subandhu and Bana ; only, Subandhu's gifts are often 
rendered ineffectual by the mediocrity of his poetic powers. 
There is the sameness of characteristics and of ideas of workman- 
ship; but while Subandhu often plods, Bana can often soar. 
The extreme excellence, as well as the extreme defect, of the 
literary tendency, which both of them represent in their indivi- 
dual way, are, however, better mirrored in Bana's works, which 
reach the utmost limit of the peculiar type of the Sanskrit prose 

d. Bdnabhatta 

( In the first two and a half chapters of his Harsa-carita and 
in the introductory stanzas of his Kadambarl, 1 Banabhatta 
gives an account of himself and his family as prelude to that of 
his royal patron A He was a Brahman of the Vatsyayana-gotra, 
his ancestry being traced to Vatsa, of whom a mythological 
account is given as the cousin of Saradvata, son of SarasvatI and 
Dadhica. In the family was born Kubera, who was honoured 
by many Gupta kings, and whose youngest son was PaSupata. 
Pagupata's son was Arthapati; and among the many sons of 
Arthapati, Citrabhanu was Bana's father. They lived in a place 
called Pritikuta on the banks of the Hiranyabahu, otherwise known 

1 The accounts a^ree, except ]in one omission, namely, the name of Bana 'ft great-grand- 
father, PMupata, is not found in the Kadambari. For a recent summary of all relevant 
questions regarding Bana and his works, as well as for a full bibliography, see A. A. Maria 
Sharpe, B ana's K&dambari (Diss.. N. V. de Vlaamsche, Leuven 1937), pp. 1-108, which also 
contains Dutch trs. of work, with indices and concordances, 



as the river Sona. Bana's mother Rajyadevi died while he was yet 
young, but his father took tender care of him. When he was 
about fourteen, his father died; and in the unsettled life which 
followed, Bana wandered about from place to place, mixed in 
dubious company, acquired evil repute as well as rich experience, 
returned home and lived a life of quiet study. He was summoned 
to the presence of king Harsavardhana, ostensibly for being taken 
to task for his misspent youth, at his camp near the town of 
Manitara on the Ajiravati. He was at first received with cold- 
ness, but afterwards with much favour. 1 After some time, on a 
visit home, Bana was requested by his relatives to speak of the 
great king. He began his narrative, after having warned his 
audience of his inability to do full justice to his theme. The story 
is told in the remaining five Ucchvasas, but it is left unfinished. 
It was possibly never his intention to offer a complete account; 
for he tells us that even in a hundred lives he cannot hope to 
recount the whole story of Har^a's mighty deeds, and asks his 
audience if they would be content to hear a part. 2 

We have already spoken of the value of the important 
metrical preface to the ( ffarsa-cana/)which speaks of the famous 
literary predecessors of Bana. .JThe story begins with a descrip- 
tion of SthanvJgvara and of the glorious kings, sprung from 

1 It is not known tt what stage of Harsa's career Bana met him. It is assumed that 
Bin* was fairly young when Harsa in his greatness patronised him) and that there is no 
reason to presume that Bana wrote in the early part of Harsa *s reign, which ended in 647 -A. D. 
Bana never alludes to troubles of poverty among oth^r troubles he mentions in Uochvasa i, 
and we are also toll that he inherited wealth from his ancestors. He acknowledges gifts 
from his patron, but there is nothing to support the legend that he sold some of his literary 
works to Harsa. 

* The earliest quotation from BSna, though anonymous, occurs in Vamana's 
K&vyalamkara (2nd half 'of the 8th century) v. 2. 44, anukaroti bhagavato ndrdyanasya 
( =Kadajnbari t td, Peterson, p. 6), In the middle of the 9th century, Bana and his two 
works are nwtjtimied by Inandavardbana in his Dhranyahka (ed. NSP, pp. 87, 100, 
101,127). " ' v ^fc M ,, 

8 Ed * A> ^^^P" ;wft)l C0mm ' f Strpkara ' Bombl Skt " Ser " 1909 ; ed - K - p - Parab > 
with same comm^^^pKlpbay 1892 (6th ed. 1925) ; ed. P. V. Kane (without comm. but with 

notes, etc.), BombaflllL Trs. into English by E. B. Cowell and F.W. Thoznas, Ix)ndoii 1907, 


Puspabhuti, from whom is descended Hanjavardhana's father, 
Prabhakaravardhana. Harsa's elder brother is Kajyavardhana ; 
and his sister KajyaSrI is married to Grahavarman of the 
Maukhari family of Kanyakubja. Then we have a more brilliant 
than pathetic picture of the illness and death of Prabhakara- 
vardhana, whose queen Yasomati also ascends the funeral pyre, 
of the return of Kajyavardhana from his successful campaign 
against the Hunas, and of his reluctance to ascend the throne. 
But before Harsa could be installed, news reaches that the king 
of Malava has slain Grahavarman and imprisoned Rajyafri. 
Eajyavardhana succeeds in defeating the Malava king, but he is 
treacherously killed by the king of Gauda. Harsa's expedition 
to save his sister follows, but in the mean time^he escapes from 
prison and is rescued by a Buddhist sage. The story abruptly 
ends \\ith the meeting of Harsa and Rajya^ri while the tale of 
her recovery is being told. The work gives us nothing about the 
later career of Harsa, nor any information regarding the later 
stages of Bana's own life./ 

V The Harsa-carita has the distinction of being the first 
attempt at writing a Prose Kavya on an historical theme. 1 ) 
Subandhu's Vasavadatta, as well as Bana's other prose narrative, 
the Kadambarl, deals with legendary fiction, and everything is 
viewed in these works through a highly imaginative atmosphere. 
The Harsa-carita is no less imaginative, but the author takes his 
own sovereign as his hero and weaves the story out of some actual 
events of his career. In this respect it supplies a contemporary 
picture, y hi ch, in the paucity of other records, is indeed valuable; 
but its importance as an historical document should not be 
overrated. The sum-total of the story, lavishly embellished 
as it is, is no more than an incident in Harsa's career ; and it 
cannot be said that the picture is either full or satisfactory 
from the historical point of view. Many points in the narra- 
tive, especially the position, action and identity of the Malava 

i See below, ch. VI, under Poema with Hiitoricti Theoie*. 


and the Gauda kings, are left obscure ; and the gorgeously 
descriptive and ornamental style leaves little room for the poor 
thread of actual history. Even if the work supplies picturesque 
accounts, into which the historian may profitably delve, of the 
actualities of life in camp and court, in monastery and village 
retreat, of military expeditions, and of social and religious 
observances and practices, we learn very little indeed of the 
political facts of the great emperor's reign as a whole. 

\It is clear that Bana writes his Harsa-carita more as a 
romantic story than as a sober history of the king's life, and stops 
when he is satisfied that his Muse has taken a sufficiently long 
flight./ The term ' Historical Kavya,' which is often applied to 
this and other ^works of the same kind, is hardly expressive ; 
for, in all essential, the work is a Prose Kavya, and the fact of 
its having an historical theme does not make it historical in 
style, spirit and treatment. The reproach that India had little 
history and historical sense is perhaps not entirely just, but 
India was little interested in historical incident as such, and 
never took seriously to chroniclining, much less to what is known 
as history in modern times. The uncertainties of pre-history, 
therefore, continue in India to a comparatively late period ; and 
it is also important to note that the idea of evolution is, in the 
same way, scarcely recognised in the sphere of thought and 
speculation. Perhaps the explanation is to be sought in the 
psychology of the Indian mind, which takes the world of 
imagination to be more real than the world of fact ; perhaps we 
in modern" times attach too much importance to fact or incident 
and make a fetish of history or evolution. In any case, history 
had little place in the Kavya, which apparently considered the 
mythological heroes to be more interesting than the actual 
rulers of the day. Even when a real personage is taken for 
treatment, as in the case of Hara, he is elevated and invested 
with all the glory and some of the fiction of the mythological 
hero. The Sanskrit theory of art also, in its emphasis on 
imaginative and im personalised creation, encouraged abstraction, 


admitted belief in fate and miracle, and had little feeling for the 
concrete facts and forces of human nature and human life. The 
same spirit, which tended against the creation of a vigorous and 
sensitive drama, stood also in the way of clear and critical 
historiography. The poets who, like Bana, write on histori- 
cal themes, never claim merit ;is historians, but conceive their 
duty to be that of a poet. It would not be proper, therefore, 
to attach the qualification ' historical ' to what is essentially a 

The imposition of keeping even within the semblance of 
fact is absent in the Kadambarl, which is an entirely imagina- 
tive creation, but which like the Harsa-carita, is also left 
unfinished. It was, however, death which, cut off the work ; and 
we are told by Bana's son, Bhugana, 1 that he wrote the latter 
part, not out of literary ostentation, but as a task of filial duty. 
We do not know in what way Bana himself would have rounded 
off the inherent difficulties of the remainder of the plot, but the 
inferiority of the supplement is generally admitted. It gives the 
impression of introducing complexities, but there is also an 
anxiety of bringing the story to a somewhat hurried close. The 
command over the ornate style and diction is undoubted, and the 
son possesses some of the excellences of the father; but to the 
mannerisms of the father, which are often exaggerated, are added 
a few peculiar to the son. 

(The story of the Kadambarl, 2 which deals with the lives 
and loves of two heroes, each of whom is reborn twicers too 
well known to require a detailed summary here. But it is 
noteworthy that Bana's portion of the composition stops even 

1 In some MSS 'e.g., Stein, Jammu Cat., Bombay 1894, p. 299), he is called Pulioa or 
Pulinda. Dhanapala in his Tilaka-mafijari (Pref , verse 26) seems to suggest that Palinda 
was the name. 

3 Ed. P. Peterson, Bomb. Skt Ser., 1883; ed. P. V. Kane, Bombay 1911, 1920; 
(3rd ed. 1921, Purvabhaga only); ed. K. P. Parab, with comm. of Bhanucandra and Siddha- 
candra, N8P, Bombay 1890 (7th ed., revised by V. L Panshikar 1928). Engl. tw. (with 
occasional omissions) 0* M. Bidding, London 1896. Summaries of the story will be found in 
these editions. 


before the theme is properly developed. It introduces the 
Can<Jala maiden and her speaking parrot into the court of 
Sudraka and puts the entire narrative in the mouth of the 
parrot. 1 Apart from absurdity of the device, it is noteworthy 
that the old method of emboxing tale within tale is also retained ; 
for the parrot's tale includes that of the sage Jabali concerning 
Candrapida and Vai^ampayana, along with the story told by 
Mahaveta of her love for Pundarlka. After the meeting of 
Candrapida with Kadambari, whose entrance into the story is 
too long delayed, and his hurried return to Ujjayini, Baija's 
work ends abruptly with the welcome news which Patralekha 
brings to him of Kadambari's assurance of love. It is clear 
that, like Spenser, Bana conceived of too large a plan and never 
lived to finish it. The plot is only begun but hardly unfolded. 
It is completed ingeniously enough by his son, but we have no 
means, except from scattered and uncertain hints in the narrative 
itself, of knowing whether Bana wanted to develop it with all 
its later bewildering turn and confusion of curses and changing 
personalities of reborn heroes. Half-told as the tale is by him, 
we cannot be sure if he meant Sudraka, the hearer of the story, 
but a redundant figure at the outset, is to become the real hero 
in the end as the reborn Candrapida, who in his turn is to be the 
moon-god in his former birth, or whether Vai^ampayana is to 
turn out as the transformed parrot itself recounting the tale ; for 
these elaborate intricacies occur in the second part of the work.J 
This important fact is ignored when one criticises Bana for 
his highly complex plot, and charges him with deficiency of 
constructive power. The striking parallelism of the story 
of the Kadambari to the much humbler one of King 
Sumanas (or Sumanasa), narrated in the two Kasbmirian 
versions of the Brhatkathft, 2 may suggest that Bana may have 

1 Oa the r61e of the Parrot in story literature, see L. H. Gray in WZKM, 
XV1IT, 1904, p. 42. 

9 Somadeva's Kafha-sant^agara^ x. 3 (Tawney's trs., Calcutta 1884, ii, p. 17 f ; the 
whole passage is reproduced in Peterson's introd. to the K&dambari, pp. 84-95) ; Kemecdra f s 
rf, xvi, 185 f. 


wanted to utilise the motif of curse and rebirth, but it is useless 
to speculate whether he would have done it in the same way as 
we have it now. The complications of the plot, as developed in 
Bhusana's supplement, can hardly be inferred from the dry bones 
of the much simpler and less refined original, occurring in the 
versions of the Brhatkatha, which has a somewhat different 
denouement and which attaches degrading forms of birth to the 
heroine Mandarika and her father, on the rather frivolous ground 
of a curse proceeding from wild grief in the one case and repent- 
ance for pronouncing the curse in the other. 

That the method of emboxing tales can be carried to a con- 
fusing extent is seen in the arrangement of Soraadeva's Katha- 
sarit-sagara, where, often with an insignificant framework, we 
have A's account of B's report of C's recounting of D's relating 
of what E said, and so forth, until we have the disentangling of 
the entire intricate progression, or reversion to the main story, 
which the reader in the meantime probably forgets. The form is 
not ill suited to a succession of disconnected tales, as in the 
Pancatantra, where they are narrated generally by the characters 
of the frame-story or of the inset stories. There is further 
improvement in the Daaknmara-carita, where their several 
experiences are narrated, with a semblance of realism, by the 
princes themselves in the first person, and in the Vetala-paftca- 
vimtati, where all the separate tales are connected to serve one 
main purpose. In the Kadambari, the old machinery is adapted, 
with a clever plan, to the conditions of the complex narrative. 
The device of first-hand narration is made an essence of the 
form ; for the inset stories explain matters which the main 
narrator could not himself know and which each subsidiary 
narrator is allowed to describe as coming within the scope of per- 
sonal experience. The main narrative here is not recounted by 
the hero, but in effect by the sage Jabali, who is supposed by his 
insight to know vividly what he relates, and who can describe 
freely and objectively ; but each of the minor narratives, like that 
of MahaSveta, gives effective expression to intimate knowledge 


and feeling, and is made essential to the development of the 

The denouement, as developed by Bhusana, is sometimes 
criticised as flat. To a certain extent, this is true ; but, making 
allowance for the device of curse and rebirth common enough in 
folk-tale, 1 one should admit that there is an element of surprise 
in the discovery at the end that Sudraka, who is only the listener 
to the story, is himself the real hero, who had loved in vain 
in two lives, and whose listening to the story is a necessary con- 
dition of the reawakening of his love for Kadambarl and of 
bringing his second life to an end by his revived longing for 
reunion. As a rule, the romance- writers, like the poets, are 
rather poor inventors of plot, and make use of all the paraphernalia 
of conventional story-telling, as well as of the fantastic ornate- 
ness of an overworked diction ; but there is more arrangement, 
progress and interest in Bana's narrative than in Subandhu's ; 
and, in spite of the complexes of past and present lives, there 
cannot be much doubt that the threads of the stories of the loves 
of the two maidens, which form his main theme, are skilfully 

(The chief obstacle to our appreciation of Bana's constructive 
gift, however, is his weakness for elaborating the tales, by dwell- 
ing too much on details, in a style which draws prose and poetry 
together in an unnatural alliance.) The lack of proportion is due 
partly to largeness of handling, and partly to a prodigal imagina- 
tion which prefers lawless splendour to decent insipidity, ^ut 
the sense of proportion is the very foundation of style and treat- 
ment. There is no need, for instance, to lose sight of the 
narrative in a lavish description of UjjayinI, of Sukanasa's 
palace, of the Vindhya forest and hermitage, of the temple of 

1 For a study of these mo'ifs as literary devices, see L. H. Gruy in WZKM, XVJII, 19f 4, 
pp. 53-64. Gray cites ao instance from the story of Arthapala in Dasakumara* t where there 
is a bint not fully developed, of a very complex scheme of three incarnations involving six 
persons. It is noteworthy, however, that it is Bana's heroes, and not his heroines, who 
Undergo three rebirths each. 


Candika^ of night and moonrise, all of which give us wonderful 
word-pictures, no doubt, but most of which are certainly over- 
done. Dana's power of observation and picturesque description, 
his love of nature, his eye for colour and ear for music, the rich- 
ness of his fancy and his wealth of words, are excellences which 
are unquestioned ; but they are seldom kept within moderate 
bounds. \ His choice of subject may be good, but his choice o"f 
scale is fatal. The readiness of his resources is truly astonish- 
ing, but the exaggeration often swamps the reality of his 
pictures. The description of UjjayinI, for instance, is too extra- 
vagant in its terms to give us a vivid notion of what it actually 
was in his time. The delineation of Mahasveta's beauty is too 
undiscriminating in its heaping of metaphors and epithets to 
present a convincing visual picture. Nor are absurdities 
excluded in matters of detail. The physician, a youth of 
eighteen, who attends upon the dying Prabhakaravardhana, is so 
fanatically attached to his king that he must also burn himself on 
the funeral pyre on his patron's death. It is not that Bana's 
imageries lack visualisation and proper phrasing ; Bana can be 
forcible and direct when he chooses ; the sense of humour is not 
altogether wanting in his picture, for example, of the Dravida 
ascetic, or in his description of Skandagupta as having a nose as 
long as his sovereign's pedigree ; the advantage of contrast is uti- 
lised in the characterisation of the pairs of lovers ; all this and more 
is admitted. But the censure is just that Bana allows no topic tq* 
pass until he can squeeze no more out of it. Whether in descrip- 
tion or in speeches of lamentation and exhortation!, no possible 
detail is missed, no existing variety of synonymous epithets 
omitted, no romantic symbolism and conceit overlooked, nor any 
brilliant rhetorical device ignored. 

It is clear that Bana's evident relish in this extended and 
over-ostentatious method is a hinderance not only to vigorous 
narrative, but also to the realities of sentiment and character. 
Comments have been made, not unjustly, on the shadowy nature 
of his personages, some in their second and even third birth 1 and 


their exaggerated sentiments. But, making allowance for 
aberrations inevitable in a rich and exuberant talent, it must be 
paid that Bana's power of characterisation or delineation of 
sentiment is not entirely divorced from reality. The world he 
depicts is removed in time and character, but not in appreciation 
and sympathy, from our own. The tale is strange, as also its 
manner of telling, but the element of marvel and magic is a 
recognised concomitant of the popular tale and need not of itself 
diminish its value as a romance, any more than the imaginative 
character of Spenser's Faery Queene impairs its interest as a 
poem. The scene is laid as much in Kadambari's home, situated 
beyond the Himalayas and peopled by Gandharvas and Kinnaras, 
as in Ujjayini where Candrapida's very human father TarapTda 
and his practical minister Sukanasa hold court in royal splendour. 
\Tbe world of fancy is conceived as vividly as the world of human- 
ity ; but the whole unreal machinery fades away when we 
are brought face to face with a tale of human love and sorrow, 
set forth in its idyllic charm as well as in its depth of pathos. :\Et 
cannot be denied indeed that these old-time romancers are Tiot 
always good at assessing the fine shades of human conduct ; they 
see life as an affair in which black is black and white is white, 
black and white seldom merge in dubious grey. Bana attempts 
to infose some diversity of colouring into his Patralekha and his 
Sukanasa, but they are too fine to be life-like. (His two heroes 
are endowed with nobility, courtesy, devotion and charm, but 
they give the impression, more or less, of broad types of charac- 
ter ; they are hardly human beings. \ All this must be frankly 
admitted. But it must also be admitted that Bana possesses a 
wonderful insight into the currents of youthful passion and virgin 
modesty, in their varying impulses of joy and grief, hope and 
despair ; and this forms the pith of his work in its surrounding 
embroidery. It is perhaps for this reason that he is more success- 
ful in delineating his two heroines. \The maidenly love of 
Kadambarl, with its timid balancing of the new-born longing and 
filial duty, is finely set off by the pathetic fidelity of 


the lovelorn Mahasveta, awaiting her lover for long years on the 
shores of the Acchoda lake. If they are overdressed children of 
Bana's poetic imagination, his romantic ideas of love find in them 
a vivid and effective embodiment ; they are no less brilliant types, 
but they are at the same time individualised by the sharpness of 
the impression>) 

[Indeed^ the chief value of Bana's unique romance lies, not 
in its narrative, not in its characterisation, nor in its presentation, 
but in- its sentiment and poetry.) In this extraordinary tale 
Bana gives us a poetic treatment, in two different ways, of youth- 
ful love, having its root not only in the spontaneous emotion of 
this life, buHn the recollective affection of cycles of existence, in 
what Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti describe as friendships of former 
births firmly rooted in the heart. (Jt is a study of the poetic 
possibilities of the belief in transmigration ; it conceives of a 
longer existence which links the forgotten past and the living 
present in bonds of tender and unswerving memories. If love in 
this romance moves in a strange and fantastic atmosphere of 
myth and folk-tale, the unreality of the dream-pageant acquires 
a vitality and interest from the graceful and poetic treatment of 
the depth and tenderness of human love, chastened by sorrow 
and death, enlivened by abiding hope and faith, and heightened 
by the touch of an intrepid idealism:) And the extravagance, of 
its luxuriant diction is perhaps a fit vehicle for this extravngantly 
romantic tale of love. 

There are some critics, however, who on formal grounds 
would deny to Bana a high rank as a prose writer ; and the 
classic onslaught of Weber * has been repeatedly quoted. vTbe 
charge, in brief, is that Bana's style and diction suffer from the 
vices of an unduly laboured vocabulary, syntax, and ornamenta- 
tion. His prose has been compared to an Indian jungle, where 
progress, is rendered impossible by luxuriant undergrowths, 

1 In ZDMG, 183, quoted by Peterson, op. ct<.,iDUod,, p. 38. On this romance, see 
Weber, Indische Streifen, i pp. 308-86, 


until the traveller cuts out a path for himself, and where wild 
beasts lie in wait for him in the shape of recondite words, far- 
fetched allusions, vast sentences, undiscriminated epithets upon 
epithets in a multitude of aggressive compounds and of a whole 
battalion of puns, similes, hyperboles, alliterations and assonan- 
ces. His erudition, it is complained, is heavy in its outrageous 
tendency to overloading and subtelty ; his sense of proportion is 
faulty in its excessive use of literary embellishments and in the 
construction of really enormous sentences, in which the verb or 
the subject is held over to the second, third, nay, even to the 
sixth page of print, all the interval being filled with more 
dazzling than illuminating series of jgbrases and phrases 
uponj)hrases ; his weakness for play upon thought or word 
is incessant and irritating ; he is dominated by the perverse 
desire of producing the graces of poetry in prose ; the grandeur of 
his style is ponderous and affected and often falls into the 
grandiose, in fact, he has all the worst faults of verbal and 
mental bombast which can characterise a prose writer. While 
some measure of imperfect sympathy may be suspected in this 
unqualified denunciation, there is a great deal in this view which 
is justifiable. But it should not be forgotten that richness of 
vocabulary, wealth of description, frequency of rhetorical orna- 
ments, length of compounds and elaborateness of sentences, a 
grandiose pitch of sound and sense are common features of the 
Prose Kavya ; and in this respect Bana is perhaps less reprehen- 
sible than Subandhu, whose unimaginative stolidity aggravate, 
rather than lessen, the enormity of the blemishes. The author 
of the Kavyadarta asserts that a profusion of compact compounds 
is the very life of Sanskrit prose, and that paronomasia is the very 
soul of poetic figures ; this dictum is exemplified only too well by 
these writings. Whether Bana felt himself fettered by the liter- 
ary canons of the rhetoricians, or whether these fetters them- 
selves were forged on the model of the works composed by himself 
and his compeers, is a question which need not be discussed 
here ; but it must be admitted at once that in Bana's romance, 


floridity, subtlety and horror of the obvious gets altogether ihe 
upper hand, as compared with succinctness, simplicity and direct- 
ness. That Bana can write with force and beauty and achieve 
considerable diversity of style has been pointed out by his 
apologists, but this cannot be taken as his general practice. He 
can seldom write without elegancies, and his manner has a 
tendency to degenerate into mannerism. He is often unable to 
concentrate in a terse phrase the force of pathos and passion, but 
reduces its strength by diffusing it into gracefully elaborated 
sentences. All this and even more cannot be denied. Bana is 
not faultless ; he is indeed very faulty. But all this should not 
lead us to compare his works with those of Dandin, which are 
differently conceived and executed, nor emphasise points in which 
he is obviously deficient. We should judge him on his own 
merits, and not by any standard which he does not profess to 
follow. It is useless to expect things which he does not aim at, 
but it is necessary to find out in what he is truly efficient. 

It seems strange that one should be capable of denying the 
splendour of Bana's prose at its best. It is eccentric, excessive 
and even wasteful, but its organ-voice is majestic in movement 
and magnificent in volume and melody. It would often seem 
that the nobly wrought diction moves along in its royal dignity 
and its panorama of beautiful pictures, while the poor story lags 
behind in the entourage and the humble sentiment hobbles along 
as best as it can. But it should not be forgotten that it is mainly 
by its wonderful spell of language and picturesqueness of ima- 
gery that Bana's luxuriant romances retain their hold on the 
imagination, and it is precisely in this that their charm lies. It 
is an atmosphere of gracious lunar rainbows rather than that of 
strong sunlight. No one denies that Bana's prose is useless for 
average purposes, but the question is whether it suits the purpose 
for which it is intended, whether the high-flown style is able to 
shape the rough stones of popular literature into gems of romantic 
beauty. It may be said that a more terse and simple style would 
have been appropriate for his account of king Harga, but the 


wojrk, as we have already said, should be taken more as a Prose 
Kavya than as an historical production, more as a stupendous 
panegyric than as a real biography. Still more should the 
Kadambarl be taken as a gorgeous and meandering tapestry 
work, in which an over-fertile fancy weaves endless patterns of 
great but fantastic beauty. It is conceded that prose in its 
normal proportion is hardly Bana's natural organ of speech, nor 
is poetry, if one is to judge from his Candl-gataka ; but he affects 
a kind of prose-poetry in which he is unique. If he is swayed 
by the rhetorical passion of the Sanskrit poets, he is not merely 
rhetorical ; if he writes long sentences, his sentences are seldom 
obscure ; if he has a fondness for epithets and compounds, they 
are not always devoid of vividness, harmony 1 and stateliness, 
Bana is neither an imaginative recluse, nor a lover of the 
abstruse and the difficult, but he has an undoubted gift for the 
picturesque, the tender and the pathetic. He has a rare mastery 
over a certain gamut of feeling and fancy, but his prettiness or 
succulence never lack dignity nor become namby-pamby. In 
spite of their long-drawn-out, brilliance and overwhelming profu- 
sion, his elaborate sentence-pictures are seldom wanting in the 
variety, swing and cadence of balanced phrase. Bana has an 
amazing command over words and an irrepressible talent for 
melodious and majestic phrase ; but he is not so much a creator 
of words and phrases as an architect of sentences and paragraphs. 
In the combination of pictorial effect with the elegance and 
splendour of word-music, they form an unparalleled series of 
vignettes of astonishing lavishness. !'e would be monotonous 
and tiresome to one who determines to plod doggedly through the 
whole work, but he is attractive if attention is confined at a time 
to the marvellous richness of his fancy revealed in one or two of 
his delightful episodes and descriptions. Bana pours out the 
whole farrago of his ideas, and has a provoking, and sometimes 
meaningless, habit of heaping them up in the enormous mass of 
a single sentence. He is verbose, not in the sense that he takes 
many words to express an idea, but in the sense that he gives 

6UDRAKA 239 

expression to a multitude of ideas where a few would suffice. He 
is always in the danger of being smothered by hisown luxuriance. 
Indeed, Bana's work impresses us by its unfailing and unres- 
trained wealth of power ; we have here not an abundance, but & 
riot. It is useless to seek a motive behind his work or sobriety 
of judgment and workmanship; what we have here is the 
sheer delight of voluminous expression, the largeness of 
tumultuous fancy, and the love of all that is grand and glorious 
in fact or fiction. 


As in poetry, so in the drama, the period which folio v\ed 
Kalidasa is still an expansive age in which stagnation has 
not yet set in. Unfortunately, only a limited number of drama- 
tic works has survived ; but, fortunately, they show greater 
elasticity, variety and vitality than the poetical works of this 
period. With the exception of Amaru and Bhartrhari, we have, 
on the one hand, Bharavi, Bhatti, Mayura, Kumaradasa and 
Magha, who (Jo nothing more than work variations in the same 
tradition of poetry ; but we have, on the other hand, Sudraka, 
the writers of four early Bhanas, Harsa, Vigakhadatta, 
Mahendravikrama, Bhatta Narayana and Bhavabhuti, each of 
whom represents a different and interesting type of the drama. ' 

a. Sudraka 

In the long and varied history of the Sanskrit drama the 
Mrcchakatika 1 of Sudraka occupies a unique place. It is sorne- 

1 Ed. A. F. Stenzler, Bonn 1847; ed. N. B. Godabole, with eoram. of Lalla Diksita 
and Prthvidhara, Bomb. Skt. Ser., 1896; ed. K. P. Parab, with comm. of Prthudhara, 
N8P, Bombay 1900, 3rd revised ed. 1909, 5th eJ. 1922. Trs. into English by A. W. Ryder, 
Harvard Orient. Ser., Cambridge Mass., 1905; also by R. P. Oliver, Univ. of Illinois, 
U.S.A., 1988. The work has been translated several times into German and French, 
and also in other languages. For fuller bibliography see Sten Konow, op. cit. t p. 59. For 
fuller bibliographies of dramatic writings dealt with in the following pages, one should 
consul^ besides Step JConow, M. Schuyler's Bibliography of the Sanskrit Drama, New 


times taken as one of the oldest extant Sanskrit dramas, and 
sometimes as a mere recast and continuation, by a clever but 
anonymous playwright, of the fragmentary Carudatta ascribed 
to Bhasa. But we have no exact knowledge of its date, origin 
and .authorship, nor of its relation to the Carudatta. The work 
has been variously assigned to periods ranging from the 2nd 
century B.C. to the 6th century A.D,, 1 but even if none of the 
opinions advanced carries complete conviction, there can hardly 
be. any doubt that it is a fairly old work. In spite of the 
number of legends which have gathered round the name of 
Sudraka, its reputed author, nothing is known of him beyond 
the somewhat fanciful account 2 given in the Prologue of the 
play. We are told in this eulogistic reference that the author 
was a great Brahman king 8 of the name of Sudraka ; and among 
the curious details of his excellences, we find that he was 
proficient in the Egveda and the Samaveda, in mathematics, 
in the art concerning the courtesan and in the lore of 
elephants, statements which it is not impossible to support, to a 
limited extent, from the knowledge betrayed in the drama 
itself. The royal author is also said to have obtained the grace 

York 1906, and Winterniz, GIL, iii, under respective authors and works. Only important 
editions and works on the plays are mentioned here. Analyses of the plots of the plays 
dealt with below are giveu by Sylvain L4vi, Sten Koi:ow and Keith ; as they are thus 
available in French, German and English respectively, we have avoided repetition as much 
as possible. 

1 The various opinions are summarised by Sten Konow, Ind. Drama, p. 57, which 
see for references; also K. C. Mehendale in Bhandarkar Comm. Vol, Poona 1917, p 367 f. 
Slen Eonow himself would identify Sudraka with the Abbira king Sivadatta (about 250 A.D ), 
white Jolly shows (Hindu Law of Partition, Inheritance and Adoption, Tagore Law Lectures, 
Calcutta 18d3, p. 68 f.) that the knowledge of legal procedure evidenced in Act ix follows 
what we find in the law-books belonging to the 6th and 7th centuries. Jecobi (Bhavisatta- 
kaha, Munich 1918, p. 83 note), on the astrological data in act iv, believes that the drama 
could oot have been written before the 4th century A.D. Sten Konow's view is effectively 
criticised by J Charpentier in JRAS, 1923, p. 595 f., who discusses the question in some 

* The use of the perfect tense, indicative of an event long past, io stanzas 3, 4, and 7 
of the prologue ia significant; but it need not imply that the information is not based upon 
tradition or it not trustworthy. 

3 gee Charpentier, loc. eft, 

^UDRAKA 241 

of Siva ; and after performing the horse-sacrifice and placing his 
son on the throne, he died by entering the fire at the astonishing 
age of a hundred years and ten days. 

Whether all this describes an historical or a mythical king 
is not certain ; and Sudraka's identity and authorship must yet 
be regarded as unsolved problems. The fact that Kalidasa's 
predecessor, Somila (with Ramila) wrote a 3udraka-katha perhaps 
indicates Sudraka's legendary character accepted even before 
Kalida?a'stime ; and to later authors like Dandin, Bana, Kalhana 
(iii. 343) and Somadeva he is already a figure of romance, 1 asso- 
ciated with Vidi^a, Pratisthana, Vardhamana and other places. 
Late legends connect him with the Andhrabhrtyas and Satavahana 
(or Salivahana), but to melt down the legends and recoin historic 
truth from them, when they bear upon their very face the 
stamp of myth, is possible but not convincing. Some facts may 
have been drawn into the legends, and probably real incidents and 
names of real persons occur, but the attempt to separate the 
real from the unreal is, more or less, a pastime of ingenuity. The 
external evidence failing, the internal is equally elusive. Even 
assuming that the Mrcchakatika is a rechauffd or recension of the 
Carudatta, there is yet no decisive evidence regarding Bhasa's 
authorship of the drama ; and even if the ascription is correct, it 
is insufficient to suggest a definite date for either of the two works. 
As royal authors in historic times were not averse to having 
works written for themselves, it has been maintained by those 
who believe in an historical Siidraka that the real author, like 
a wise and grateful courtier, ascribed his work to his royal 
patron and allowed his own name to perish. This suggestion, 
wholly lacking proof, stands on a par with the equally fanciful 

1 A later romance called giidraka-vadha ( 1), is quoted by B&yamukuU (ZDMG, 
xiviii, p. 117) and a drama entitled Vikranta-tiidraka is quoted in Bho;Vs Saras tatt-kan^hd- 
bharana (p. 878) and Srhg&ra-pral<a$a ; both the authors apparently make Sudraka the hero. 
Heraacandra in his Kavyanusdsana (ed. NSP, Bombay 1901, p. 835) mentions a S&dralca- 
kathS by PaficaSikha, which is also cited by Bboja in his Sihgara-praWa (see 8, K. Pe iu 
BSOS, IV, 1926, p. 281), 

81 1843B 


presumption that some late but skilful author composed 
this drama on the basis of the Carudatta, 1 or revised a recension 
of the original on which the Carudatta itself was based, and 
concealed his identity by passing off his work under the far-off 
famous name of Sudraka. Much less convincing, for want of 
proof, again, is the hypothesis 2 of an early date based upon 
some accidental similarities with the New Greek Comedy. We 
are, therefore, left to no more than impressions. But even on 
this ground, however inadequate, it is not possible to assign a 
very late date to the Mrcchakatika. Yamana already in the 
8th century refers (iii. 2, 4.) to a composition by Sudraka, and 
also quotes two passages anonymously, 8 one of which occurs 
also in the Garudatta, but the other does not. 4 

1 In Carudatta the total number of verses in the four acts is 55, of which 13 
are not found in the Mfcch *, the remaining 42 being identical; but the total number of 
varies in the first four acts of Sudraka's play is 129. See above, under Bhasa. 
Belvalkar shows by an examination, chiefly of incident and expression, that the Carudatta 
could not have been an abridgment or adaptation of Sudraka's drama. Suktbankar 
adds a critical review oi the technique, Prakrit, versification, dramatic incident (especially 
with regard to time-scheme) of the two plays and furnishes prim a facie reasons for 
holding that " the Carudatta version is, on the whole, older than the Mrcchakatika 
version, and hence (as a corollary), if our Carudatta is not itself the original of the 
Mrcchakatika, then, we must assume, it has preserved a great deal of the original upon 
which the Mrcchakatika is based. " But C. B. Devadhar, in introd. to his recent 
ed. Carudatta (Poona 1939), expresses the view that the Carudatta is abridged from 
the first four acts of the Mrcchakatika. He maintains, by adducing the main differences of the 
two versions, that " the author of the Carudatta, whoever he was, wanted to make a pleasing 
comedy out of the first four acts of the Mrcchakatika t and hence has avoided reference to the 
political revolution, to Bobasena and* to the law-suit, which is con tern pleted by the vengeful 

* Windisch, Einfluss, cited above, J>. 12 f ; see Keith f s criticism in SD, pp. 63-64, 
and Sten Konow in IA t XLIII, 1914, pp. 65-66. 

8 Kavyalarpkara t ad. iv. 3. 23, dy&tarp hi ndma purusasyasivphasanarn rajyam 
( Affccfc , act ii, but missing in Caru*)\ and ad v. 1. 3, the entire stanza, ydsarp, balir 
\>havati(~tircch\ i. 9; Can*', i. 2). 

' Only one verse from Sudraka, not traceable in the drama, is quoted in the anthologies, 
namely, Sbhv t no. 1271. A BhSna is also ascribed to him, for which see below, under 
CatuTbhani.Gr&y (JAOS, XXVII, 1907, p. 419 f) shows that Sudraka's grammar does not 
conform closely to the norm, a fact which indicates riot only his departure from convention 
^ttt probably also his early date. 

SUDftAKA 243 

Whatever may Lave been the date and whoever may have 
been the author, there can be no doubt that the Mrcchakatika is 
one of the few Sanskrit dramas in which the dramatist departs 
from the beaten track and attempts to envisage directly a wider, 
fuller and deeper life. He has paid for his boldness and originality 
by the general disregard of his great work by the Sanskrit theo- 
rists; 1 but he knows that he is writing a drama, and not an 
elegant series of sentimental verses in accordance with the pres- 
cribed mode. It is, thus, not the usual type of a dramatic poem, 
but possesses distinctly dramatic qualities, which make a greater 
appeal to modern taste and idea. Apart from the graphic 
picture it presents of some phases of contemporary life, 2 the 
work is truly worthy of a great dramatist in its skilful handling 
of a swift-moving plot of sustained interest, 8 in its variety of 
incidents and characters, in its freedom from the usual fault of 
over-elaboration, 4 in its sharpness of characterisation, in its use 
of direct and homely imageries conveyed in a clear, forcible and 
unaffected diction, in its skilful employment of a variety of 
Sanskrit and Prakrit metres, 6 in its witty dialogue, in its general 

1 The earliest quotation in dramaturgic works occur in the Avaloka on Dasarupaka, 
i. 46 ( = ii. 4), etc. See Mebendale, op. cit. t p. 370. 

2 See R. G. Basak in IHQ, 1929, p. 229-325. 

3 The unity of action is questioned by Gray in introd. to his trs. But the criticism is 
really based on a misconception of acts ii-v, which he thinks to be episodic, forming a sub- 
plot of little connexion with the main plot. - But all these so-called episodes are necessary 
for characterising Vasantasena and her love, and therefore essential to the main theme.- It 
is remarkable that there are six shifting scenes in act i, which take place in Carudatta's 
house and in the street outside, a difficult feat indeed for the stage-manager ! This feature 
is also noticeable in the Mudra-rak$asa and probably points to the existence of an enlarged 

4 Except perhaps the elaborate description of Vasantasena 's house and the Abhisarika 


5 It is significant that the Sioka is greatly favoured being apparently suitable for 
rapidity and directness of style. The four most commonly employed metres, next to the Sloka, 
are, in their order of frequency, Vasantatilaka, Sardulavikricjita, Arya, and Indravajra 
(including Upajati) ; of more unusual metres there are Vidjunmala and Vais*vadevi. No other 
Sanskrit play exhibits such a variety of Prakrits as found in the Mrcc.h*. On the use of the 
Prakrits see Pischel, Orammatik der Prakrit-sprachen (Strasbourg 1900), p. 25 f ; JRAS, 1913, 
p. 882, 1918, p. 613; Keith, 8D, pp. 140-42. gauraseni predominates and MaMrasJrl is rare, 


liveliness and dramatic effect, in its mastery of deep pathos 
and in its rare quality of quiet humour. In spite of its somewhat 
conventional happy ending, which, however, is adequately 
developed, it verges almost upon tragedy; and neither the plot 
nor the characters can be regarded as conventional. All these 
excellences invest the simple love-story of this ten-act comedy of 
middle-class life with a charm peculiarly its own ; and the 
remark that it is the most Shakespearian of all Sanskrit plays 
is, in some respect, not undeserved. 

The drama has not only a curious title 1 but an equally 
curious theme and treatment. The title '" The Little Clay-cart " 
is derived from an episode, which leads to the leaving of the 
heroine's jewels in the toy clay-cart of the hero's little son and 
gives rise to complications of the plot, which are finally resolved 
in the denouement ; and the episode of the clay-cart also has 
a psychological significance in the turn of the heroine's life. 
What is more remarkable is that in this drama, for the first 
time, we turn from the stories of kings and queens to a more 
plebeian atmosphere, 2 from the dramatisation of time-worn 
legends 8 to a more refreshing plot of everyday life, the scene of 

1 It is noteworthy that Sudraka defies the convention of naming his play after the 
names of the hero and the heroine, as we have it in Bhavabhiiti's Prakarana, the Mdlati- 
madhava. In contravention of dramaturgic prescription, Catudatta does not appear at all 
in acts ii, iv, vi and viii ; while his simple-minded and whole-hearted friend, Maitreya, with his 
doglike faithfulness, does not conform to the technical Definition and has none of the grosser 
traits of the typical Vidusaka. The presence of shady characters is, obviously, not entirely 
legitimate, for this makes the author of the Dafarupaka call it a Saipkirna Prakarana (cf. 
Natya-darpana, p. 119) inasmuch as such characters are apparently appropriate to the Bhana 
or Prahasana. 
* 3 The Avi-rnaraka is not as plebeian as it appears. 

3 Apart from the question of the relation of the Mfcch*. to the Cdrudatta, which work, 
however, covers the same ground only up to the first four acts, the source of the story is 
unknown. We cannot be sure that the idea of a courtesan falling in love with a 
Brahman is derived from the story of Kumudika and Uupinika, as we find it in Somadeva's 
version of the Bfhatkath& t for the story may not have occurred in the original; 
but the example of Madanamanjuka was probably there. The cqurtesan is also 
a heroine already of the Central Asian dramatic fragment, of which we have spoken. The 
sub plot of Gopala and Palaka is also known to be an* old legend. But all tbis, as well as 
the relation of the play to the Carudatta, does not detract from its originality, which by 

SUDftAKA 245 

which is laid in a cosmopolitan city like Ujjayini. When we 
turn from the two masterpieces of Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti to 
this third great Sanskrit drama, we find ourselves descending, as 
it were, from a refined atmosphere of poetry and sentiment to the 
firm rock of grim reality. And yet the drama is not at all shorn 
of real poetry and sentiment, which flourish no less in the strange 
world unfolded by the drama, a world in which thieves, 
gamblers, rogues, political schemers, mendicants, courtiers, idlers, 
police constables, housemaids, bawds and courtesans jostle along 
freely. The love that it depicts is not the sad and romantic love of 
Dusyanta and his woodland beloved, nor yet the fond and deep 
conjugal affection idealised in Bhavabhuti 's story of Rama and 
Sita, but simply and curiously, the love of a man about town 
for a courtesan, which is nevertheless as pure, strong and tender. 
The strange world supplies a fitting background to this strange 
love ; and an inventive originality 1 is displayed by linking the 
private affairs of the lovers with a political intrigue which in- 
volves the city and the kingdom. Into the ingenious plot are also 
freely thrown a comedy of errors leading to disaster and an act of 
burglary leading to happiness, a murder and a court-scene ; and 
considerable fertility of dramatic imagination is displayed in 
working out the details of the plot, its only serious defect being 
its great length, The drama is also singular in conceiving a 
large number of interesting characters, drawn from all grades 
of society, from the high-souled Brahman to the sneaking thief; 

itself would, at leaat from the literary point of view, exclude tbe work from being stigmatised 
as " an inexcusable plagiarism/* Even though it may have borrowed, it certainly transmutes 
what it borrows by a fine dramatic sense and workmanship. 

1 The political background which practically permeates the entire drama, even from 
its prologue, in which there is a reference to king Palaka, is entirely absent in the Carudatta.* 
Charpentier, however, thinks (JRAS, 1925, p. 604 f ) that the episode of Palaka is loosely connect- 
ed and adventitious. But the point is missed that it is neither a detached nor a fully developed 
subplot; and even if it is considered unessential to the main story, it never becomes conspi- 
cuous but runs through the thread of the central theme, supplying motives to some of the 
incidents. What is more important is that the episode is necessary to create the general 
atmosphere of the bizarre society, in which the whole host of rascals are capable at any 
moment of all kinds of acts, ranging from stealing a gem-casket to starting a revolution. 


they are presented not as types, .but as individuals of diversified 
interest ; * and it includes, in its broad scope, farce and tragedy, 
satire and pathos, poetry and wisdom, kindliness and 
humanity. 2 

In the midst of all the motley assemblage of characters, who 
are mostly rogues and rascals and are yet true, and not altogether 
unlovable, gentlemen, stand out prominently the hero and the 
heroine. The Sakara Samsthanaka, with his ignorant conceit 
and brutal lust, presents an excellent contrast, but the author's 
power of effective characterisation is best seen in his conception 
of the two main characters. The noble Carudatta, a large-hearted 
Brahman by birth and wealthy merchant by profession, does not 
represent the typical Nagaraka, whose whole round of life 
consists of love and pleasure ; for there is nothing of the gilded 
dandy and dilettante in his refined character, and his chief 
interest is not gallantry. There is a note of quiet self-control in 
most of his acts ; and even in love most of the courtship is done 
by Vasantasena. He is a young man of breeding, culture and 
uprightness, whose princely liberality wins the admiration of the 
whole city, but reduces him to lonely poverty. If the change of 
fortune makes him bitter, it does not make him a misanthrope 
nor does it debase his mind ; it only teaches him to take life at 
its proper value. Carudatta is endowed with great qualities, 
but like the conventional hero he is not made a paragon of virtue. 
He is by no means austere or self-denying. He is a perfect man 
of the world, who loves literature, music and art, does not disdain 
gambling, nor share his friend Maitreya's bias against the 
hetarae. He never assumes a self-righteous attitude r his great 
virtues are softened by the milk of human kindness. His youth 
does not exhibit indifference, and the most outstanding feature of 
his character is his quiet and deep love for Vasantasena. 

1 Siidraka's men are perhaps better individualised than bis women. 

2 For a brief appreciation of the play see S. K. De, Treatment of Love in Sanskrit 
Literature, Calcutta 1929, pp. 80-87 ; and for a summary of the story see S. K. De in Talet 
from Sanskrit Dramatists, Madras 1930, pp. 62-96, 


The wrong of this unconventional love disappears in the ideal 
beauty which gathers round it ; and its purity, strength and 
truth make it escape degradation. Vasantasena has neither the 
girlish charm of Sakuntala nor the mature womanly dignity of 
Sita. Witty and wise, disillusioned and sophisticated, she has 
seen much of a sordid world ; she has yet a heart of romance, 
arid her love is true and deep even in a social status which 
makes such a feeling difficult. Much wealth and position she 
has achieved by an obligatory and hereditary calling, but her 
heart is against it, and it brings her no happiness. Her meeting 
with Carudatta affords a way of escape, but she is sad and afraid 
lest her misfortune of birth and occupation should stand in the 
way. It is a case of love at first sight, and for the first time she 
is really in love. The touch of this new emotion quickens 
rapidly into a pervading flame and burns to ashes her baser self. 
It is all so strange even to herself. She can yet hardly believe 
that she, an outcast of society, has been able to win the love of 
the great Carudatta, the ornament of Ujjayini, and asks, half 
incredulously, the morning after her first union with her beloved, 
if all that is true. She is fascinated by the lovely face of 
Carudatta's little son and stretches out her arms in the great 
hunger for motherhood which has been denied to her. But the 
child in his innocence refuses to come to her and take her as his 
mother, because she wears such fine things and ornaments of 
gold : a harsh speech from a soft tongue, which makes her take 
off her ornaments, fill the toy clay-cart of the child and ask him 
to get a gold cart to play with. Her love makes her realise the 
emptiness of riches and the fulness of a pure and true affection. 
When the Sakara threatens to kill her for not submitting to 
himself, and taunts her as "an inamorata of a beggarly 
Brahman/' she is not ashamed but replies : " Delightful words ! 
Pray, proceed, for you speak my praise." Growing furious, 
the brutal and cowardly SakSra takes her by the throat. She 
does not cry out for succour, but she remembers her beloved 
ta and blesses his name. " What, still dost thou repeat 


that name," spits out the Sakara, blinded by rage, as he strangles 
her; but on the verge of imminent death the name of Carudatta is 
still on her lips, and she murmurs in a struggling voice : namo 
caludattassa, " My homage be to Carudatta!" 

The dramatic action reaches a natural climax, and the work 
might have ended here with a tragic note; but the tragedy is 
converted into a comedy of reunion, which may appear as a 
weak denouement, but which is logically developed by a skilful 
handling of the incidents. The happy ending is a convention 
enforced by theory, but in this drama convention is nowhere 
respected as mere convention. It is a drama of social and 
artistic challenges, and the dramatist is perfectly aware of his 
strength in putting them forth. The Mrcchakatika may not 
have been, as one of its critics contends, " a transcript from 
real life," but its author never sacrifices real life for a 
stereotyped manipulation of the threadbare sentiment and action. 
If he really works up the fragmentary Carudatta, or some previous 
original, as Shakespeare is said to have reworked old pieces, he 
succeeds in producing a masterpiece, which stands by itself in 
its entire conception and execution. 

b. The Authors of the Caturbhdnl 

Somewhat closely connected with the Mrcchakatika in 
atmosphere and spirit, but limited in scope and inferior in 
literary quality, are the tour one-act monologue plays, discovered 
and published in 1922 under the title Caturbhani, J one of which 
is actually ascribed to Sudraka. The four Bhanps are : the 
Ubhayabhisarika, the Padma-prabhrtaka , the Dhurta-vita-samvdda 
and the Pada-taditaka, ascribed respectively to Vararuci, 

* Ed. M. Ramkrishna Kavi and S. K. R-imanatba Sastri, Sivapuri, (Trichur) 1922. The 
works deserve to be belter printed anJ kuown. For studies of these woiks, see F. W. Thorn. B 
in Centenary Supplement to JRAS, 1924, pp. 129-36, and JRAS, 1924, p. 262 f ; S. K. De 
in JRAS, 1926, pp. 63-90. Snkumar Sen has translated the Ubhayabhisarika into English ID 
Calcutta Review, 1926, pp. 127-47, 


Sudraka, 1 I^varadatta and Syamilaka, on the authority chiefly of 
a traditional verse. Except in Syarailaka's Pdda-taditaka, neither 
the author's name nor the occasion of the performance is 
mentioned in the rudimentary prologue to these plajs. The 
lower limit of the Pada-taditaka, however, is obtained by the 
references of Abhinavagupta, 2 Kuntaka 3 and Ksemendrn, * ail 
of whom belong to the end of the 10th century ; while the lower 
limits of the date of Padma-prabhrtalia and Dhurta-vita-samvada 
are given by Hemacandra's quotation and reference in bis 
KavyanuSasana 5 at the end of the llth and beginning of the 
12th century; but the lower limit of the Ubhayabhisdrika is not 
kno\\n. Since, however, they exhibit similar characteristics and 
form a group by themselves, between which and the later 
specimens of the Bhana (the earliest of which is certainly not 
earlier than the 13th century) a considerable time must have 
elapsed, there can be little doubt that the four Bhanas belong 
to the age of the earlier classical dramatists; and, on the 
strength of facts revealed in the plays themselves, their general 
atmosphere, the types of men and nations that they deal with, 
their tone and temper, their lexicographical and stylistife 
peculiarities, Thomas is perhaps not wrong in placing them, or 
at least one of the Bhanas, t in the time of Harsa of Kanauj or 
even that of the later Guptas." A comparative study of these 
Bhanas with the later specimens, in the light of the 
prescriptions of the dramaturgists, would also show a method 
and manner, which would justify the general inference that 

1 There is nothing to show that the play is by Sudraka, nor anything to dispute the 
author ship. 

* See the editor's Preface to the Bhanas. The reference occurs in the com in. on 
Bharata, ch xiv. 

3 Ed. S. K. De, Calcutta 1928, i. Ill (^Pada-taditaka 55) anonymously. 

* Pada-t. 33, l^b-Aucitya-vicara, ad 16 and Suvrtta-tilaka, ad ii. 81. The colophon 
says that Syamilaka is an Udlcya ; the statement is apparently confirmed by these citations by 
Kashmiris n authors. 

6 Ed. N8P, p. 839. The identity of ISvaradatta with Ifharasena (c, 236.239 A.D.), 
son of the Abhlra king Sivadatta, is suggested but not proved, 


these Bhanas, as a group, should be assigned to a period later 
than that of Bharata's Natya-astra, but much earlier than that 
of the standard work of Dhanafijaya (end of the 10th century). 

Compared with later plays of the same type, the Gaturbhanl 
presents more variety, greater simplicity/ a larger amount of 
social satire and comic relief, a more convincing power of 
drawing individuals rather than abstractions, easier and more 
colloquial style, and some measure of real poetry in spite of 
certain rough coarseness. Except in the Dhurta-vita-samvada, 
the Vita is not exactly the " hero"; but, as the friend and 
emissary of the hero, who never appears, he fills the stage as 
the sole actor. The plot, of course, in such one-act monologue 
plays, is slight, but it does not here consist merely of the 
conventional amorous adventures of the Vita and usual reunion 
at the end ; on the contrary, as much variety is introduced as is 
possible within its narrow scope. Tn the Padma-prabhrtqka, 
Karnlputra Muladeva, 1 in love with Devasena, sister to his 
beloved hetaera Devadatta, commissions his friend Sasa the 
Vita, to ascertain the state of Devasena's mind. The .Vita 
walks through the streets of Ujjayini, exchanging imaginary 
conversation with various kinds of amusing people and taking an 
interest in their affairs, discharges his commission successfully, 
and returns with a gift of lotus-flower as a souvenir from 
Devasena, from which the play takes its name. In the Dhurta- 
vita-samvada, the clever and experienced Vita, finding the rainy 
season too depressing, comes out to spend the day in some 
amusement. He cannot afford dice and drinking even his 
clothes are reduced to one garment so he wends his way towards 

1 Tie legend of Muladeva KariiTsuta, which is alluded to by Bana, probably goes back 
lo the Brhatkatha, Karnisuta being regarded traditionally as the author of a manual on 
theft. In Sana's reference : karnlsuta-katheva samnihita vipuldcala tasopagata ca 
(Kadambari ed. Peterson, 1900, p. 19, 11. 16-17;, punning allusion is made to Sasi and Vipula 
of the story, both of whom occur in this play. Oa the character and adventures of Muladevt, 
see M. Bloomfield in Proc. American Philosophical #oc,, UL 1918, pp. 616-60, 



the street where courtesans live, meeting various kinds of people 
and ultimately reaching the house of the roguish couple 
Vigvalaka and Sunanda, where he passes the day in discussing 
certain knotty problems of Erotics put to him by Visvalaka. 
The title " Dialogue between a Rogue and a Rake/' therefore, 
appropriately describes its content; and it gives an amusing 
epitome of the aesthetic and erotic laws which govern the life of 
a rake, and forms a companion volume to such works as Damo- 
daragupta's Kuttanl-mata. In the Ubhayabhisarika, tin* Vita is 
requested by his friend Kuberadatta to propitiate his offended 
lady Narayanadatta ; but when, after the usual series of wayside 
adventures, he reaches the house of the latter, he finds that the 
lovers, urged by the witchery of the season, had already set out 
in search of each other and forestalled him in effecting a reunion. 
In the Pada-taditaka, the theme is more interesting and novel, if 
less edifying. The Vita sets out to attend an assembly of rouges 
and rakes, who have met to consider the question of expiation 
referred to them by Taundikoki Visnunaga, the nominal hero, 
the son of a Maharnatra, and himself an officer of the, king, for 
the indignity he has suffered by allowing an intoxicated courtesan, 
a Saurastra girl, named Madanasenika, to kick him, in 
playfulness, on such a sacred spot of his body as his head ! Some 
think that it is not Visnunaga, but the girl herself, who should 
expiate for setting her foot upon such a beast ; others suggest 
that Visnunaga should rub and shampoo her dishonoured foot ; 
another proposes that he should bathe his head with the water 
with which she washes her feet, and drink the same; the poet 
Rudravarman prescribes that his dishonoured head should be 
shorn ; but in the end, it is agreed, on the proposal of the presid- 
ing rake, that Madanasenika should put more sense into her 
lover by setting her foot on the president's own head in the sight 
of Visnunaga ! 

The scene of action of all these plays is laid in imperial 
cities like Ujjayini or Kusumapura ; and in one case (Pada-tadi- 
the author probably wants to disguise the name of the 


actual city, whose scandals arc recorded, by calling it Sarva- 
hhauma-nagara, an imaginary cosmopolitan city somewhere in 
Western India. Of course, the Vita takes his usual promenade 
in the hetaera's street and carries on imaginary conversations, 
but the characters are not the conventional types of the man about 
town and the courtesan ; they are sufficiently diversified to keep 
up the interest of the narrative ; and a zest is added, in spite of 
the erotic theme, by a decided leaning towards satirical and 
comic portraiture, which is rare in later Bhanas entirely engrossed 
in eroticism. One would seek in vain in later decadent writings 
for the power of observation and reproduction of the classes of 
peoples and personages who are described or ridiculed in the 
Caturbhanl. Characters like Sarasvatabhadra, the sky-gazing 
poet with a verse on the spring recorded on the wall, Dattakalasi 
the pedantic Paninian with bis sesquipedalian affectation and 
war on the Katantrika?, Samdhilaka, the Sakya-bhiksu, who con- 
soles the hetaera Samghadasika with words of the Buddha, 
Mrdangavasulnka the decrepit Nataka-vita, nicknamed " Bhava 
Jaradgava," the thoughtless young rake Sresthiputra Krsnilaka 
averse to marriage, the penniless impotent Nagna-sramana Vi6va- 
laka and his dried-up mistress Sunanda, VilasakaundinI the 
hypocritical Buddhist Parivrajika of easy virtue who always 
quotes the scriptures to mention only a few are specimens 
which are unknown to later Bhanas. 1 The Vita, who is the 
central figure 1 is also not altogether a despicable character here, 
not such a worthless amorist as the later Bhanas depict him to 
be. As a character, he is neglected in the serious drama, but he 
appears in the Carudatta and attains considerable development in 
the Mrcchakatika. In theBhana he is in all his glory ; he appears, 
no doubt, as an erotic character in these early works, but he is 
still figured as a poet skilled in the arts, and has not yet become 

1 The Buddhist monks and nuns, who 6gure also in the Bhagavadajjuka and Malta- 
vilasa, disappear from later Bhana and Prahasana, and their place is taken by absurd 
Sroiriyas, wicked Pauranikas, Saivas, Vaisnavaa and Bhagavatas. The large number of 
foreigners mention d and caricatured in the Caturbhanl is also a noteworthy feature. 


a gallant in the worst sense in which he appears in the later 
Bhanas. 1 

Apart from their naive exuberance of robust grossness, the 
Caturbhani stand unique for their amusing pictures of the lives 
and adventures, scandals and gossips, of a class of people who 
infest all imperial cities, and would not be unworthy of the pen 
of the author of the Mrcchakatika, to whom one of the Bhanas is 
actually ascribed. The language employed is Sanskrit through- 
out, with the exception of t\*o short Prakrit passages in the 
Pada-taditaka (pp. 21, 23) ; and its racy, well turned and conver- 
sational tone, very unlike that of the affected prose of the 
romances of Subandhu and Bana, is rightly characterised by an 
appreciative critic as " the veritable ambrosia of Sanskrit speech. 1 ' 
The metrical variety is skilful and vigorous, and does not hamper 
the interest by unnecessary display and profusion. The literary 
importance of the Caturbhani, therefore, cannot be gainsaid. 
The Bhanas in later times become mere literary exercises, devoid 
of variety and monotonous in their cloying insistence on the 
erotic sentiment ; they subside into a conventional and lifeless 
form of the art. The Caturbhani, on the other hand, have more life 
and greater freedom of handling and draws upon other legitimate 
sources of interest than the erotic. Their marked flair for 
comedy and satire, their natural humour and polite banter, their 
presentation of a motley group of interesting characters, not 
elaborately painted but suggested with a few vivid touches of the 
brush, are characteristics which are not frequently found in 
Sanskrit literature; and, apart from their being the earliest 
specimens of a peculiar type of dramatic composition, they possess 
a real litenry quality in their style and treatment, which makes 
them deserve a place of their own in the history of the Sanskrit 

1 Bbarata lays down that the Bhana should be dhurta-vita*samprayojya', the Vita need 
not be " the hero." as he is not in most of these early Bhan*3, but he is the only character 
who fills the stage, and the heroship is naturally transferred to him in later Bhanas, in 
which, however, he becomeg a poor shadow of his former self. 


Of the same lively and satirical character, but inferior in 
scope, treatment and literary quality, is the Matta-vilasa 1 of 
Mahendravikrama-varman. The prologue of the play, fortunately, 
gives the name of the author and describes him as a king of the 
Pallava dynasty and son of Simhavarman ; the scene is laid 
in KancI, the modern Conjevaram and the ancient capital of the 
Pallava kingdom. All this enables us to identify the author with 
the king of that name, known to us from inscriptions, which 
mention the Matta-vilasa as a work of his, and also give him the 
titles of Gunabhara, Avambhajana, Mattavilasa and Satruraalla, 
all found in the play itself. The king ruled in KancI about 620 
A.D., and was thus a contemporary of Harsavardhana and Bana. 

The play is a slight farcical sketch in one act, technically 
belonging to the category of the Prahasana, which is closely 
allied to the Bhana. It depicts with some liveliness the drunken 
revelry of a Saiva mendicant, bearing a human skull- in lieu of 
alms-bowl and accordingly calling himself a Kapalin, his wander- 
ing with his wench through the purlieus of Kaiici on his way to 
a tavern, his scuffle with a hypocritical Buddhist monk * whom 
he accuses of the theft of the precious bowl which he has lost, 
his appeal to a degenerate Pa^upata to settle the dispute, and the 
final recovery of the bowl from a rnad man who had retrieved it 
from a stray dog. The incident is amusing but trivial, and the 

1 Ed. T. Ganapati Sastri, TrivaDdrum Skt. Ser., 1917. On this drama see L. D. 
Barnett in JRAS, 1919, pp. 233-34, BSOS, 1920, I, pt. 3, pp. 36-38. Eng. trs. L. U. 
Barnett, BSOS, V, 1930, pp. 6G7-710. Except that the author is % named in the prologue, 
the play shows the same technique of stage-craft and other peculiarities as the plays 
attributed to Bbasa. Barnett makes this fact the basis of the suggestion that the Bhasa 
dramas are the products of an anonymous playwright of a Southern dramatic school, 
who composed them at about the same period as that of Mahendravikrama. But since 
the features are shown also by several other plays of other dramatists of known or un- 
known dates, the conclusion, we have seen, cannot be justified in the form in which it is 

* It is significant that the monk, a frail son of the Church, bears the name of Nagasena, 
the famous Buddhist divine and protagonist of the MtUndapaftho ; and his mumbling of the 
diksapadaand his inward fretting about restrictions regarding wine and women are interesting 
touches. On false ascetics and nuns in Indian fiction in general, see M. Bloo nfield in JAOS, 
XL! V, 1924, pp. 202-942. 

HARBA 255 

satire caustic but broad. It evinces no distinctive literary 
characteristics .of a high order, but within its limits it shows 
some power of vivid portraiture in a simple and elegant style, 
and certainly deserves an indulgent verdict as the earliest known 
specimen 1 of the Prahasana or farce, which in later times 
becomes marked by greater vulgarity and less literary skill. 

c. Harm 

Three dramas, entitled respectively PriyadarSika, Ratnavall 
and Nagananda, have come down to us under the name of 
Sri-Harsa ; and in spite of some discussions 2 about the identity 
of the author and ascription of the works, there cannot be much 
doubt that the dramatist was identical with king Srl-Harsa- 
vardhana Slladitya of Sthanvi^vara and Ivanyakubja, \\ho was the 
patron of Banabhatta and of the Chinese pilgrim Yuan Chwang, 
and who reigned in the first half of the 7th century (circa 606- 
648 A.D.). The authorship of the plays is now assured by 
abundant evidence, partly external and partly internal. Doubts 
do not appear to have existed on the subject from the 7th to the 
9th century; for Damodaragupta, in the 9th century, describes 

1 The Bhagavadajjuka ascribed to Bodbayana (see below) is probably a much later work. 
Although a small farce, as many as nine different metres are employed in the Matta-vildsa; 
apparently varieties of Prakrit are employed, but the uncertainty of scribal modifications in 
South Indian manuscripts precludes any positive inference from such archaic forms as are 
also found in the Bhasa dramas. 

* For a sutnn ary of the discussion, see A.V.W. Jackson's introd. to ed. of Priya- 
dar$ika. Doubts regarding authorship appear* to have been raised by t the remarks of some 
scholiasts on an opening passage of the Kavya-prakata of Mammata (i 2), in which it is 
atated that, Dhavaka (v. 1. Bana) and others obtained wealth from Srlharsa and the like. 
In explaining the passage some commentaries ascribe the RatnavaH to Dhavaka, although 
allowing that it bears Harsa's name; and sinco the reading Bana, instead of Dhavaka, is 
sometimes found in K*sbmirian MSB, it is assumed that Bana, who was a prote'ge' and 
litterateur at Harsa's court, received recompense for writing some of the dramas which now 
pass in the king's name. It must be admitted that the evidence is extremely late and wek, 
for Mammae's statement merely refers to Harsa's well-known generosity as a patron of 
letters. Of Dhavaka \ie know nothing, and disparity of style would make Bana'a authorship 
highly implausible. 


in his Kuttani-mata 1 a performance of the Ratnavali, and 
ascribes the work distinctly to Harsa ; while Yi-tsing, a in the 
last quarter of the 7th century, clearly refers to a dramatisation 
of the subject of the N&gananda by Harsa. 8 That all Jhe three 
plays are by ths same hand is also rendered certain by the almost 
verbatim repetition of the same Prologue-stanza which praises 
Harsa as the author, as well as by the close likeness which 
exists in all the three plays with regard to theme, treatment, 
structural peculiarity, parallel situations, kindred ideas, repeated 
phrases and recurring stanzas. 4 

Although the Ndgdnanda 5 is somewhat different in charac- 
ter as a drama, the Priyadariika c and the Ratndvall 7 are 
practically variations of a single theme in almost identical form 8 ; 
and the striking similarity of structure, characters and situations 
is more than merely accidental. Each of the two plays is a 
four-act Natika, and is based on one of the numerous amourettes 
of the gay and gallant Udayana, famed in legend, whose romantic 

1 Ed. Kavyamala, Gncchaka iii, NSP, Bombay 1887, pp. 98-99, 104-05. 

2 J. Takakusu, A Record of tine Buddhist Religion, Oxford 1896, pp, 163-64. 

8 Baabbat$a also refers more than once to Harsa 's gifts as a poet (Harsa-carita, ed. 
Fiibrer, pp. 112-21) ; and in the Anthologies, as we have already noted, stanzas chiefly from 
the dramas are attributed to Hara. 

* See Jackson, introd. to Priyadartika, pp. Ixxviif, for a detailed study of the relation of 
the three plays and examples of parallelisms of style and treatment. 

6 Ed. G. B. Brahme and 8. M. Paranjpe, Poona 1893 ; ed, T. Ganapati Sastri> 
with cornm. of Sivaiama, Trivandrum Skt. Ser., 1917. Eng. trs. by Palmar Boy d, London 
1872, and by Hale Wartham, London and New York 1911. 

Ed. V. D. Gadre, Bombay 1884; ed. K.V. ErislmaraachariHr, Sri-Vani-Vilasa Press, 
Srirangam, 1906 ; ed. G. K. Nariman, A. V.W. Jackson and J. Ogden, Text in roman 
characters, Eng, trs. 'and notes, etc., Columbia Univ. Indo-Iran. Ser., New York 1923. 

7 Ed. C. Cappeller in Bohtlingk's Sanskrit Chre&tomathie, 3rd ed., Leipzig 19')'.), 
p. 826 f ; ed. K.,P. Par&b, with cornm. of Govinda, NSP, Bombay 1895; ed. KrUhnath Nyaja- 
pancbanan, with com in. of Sivarama, Calcutta 1864. 

8 In the Ratn avali, which appears to have bren the most current of the three plays, 
the question of interpolation of stanzas or passages may arise, but the textual corruption in 
all the three plays is not conspicuous, nor are the variations of such consequence as would 
justify the assumption of different recensions. Although MSB are abundant, the Priyadartika 
appears, to have been comparatively neglected, and only one quotation from it (i. 1) occurs in 

i. 114), and only two in the 


adventures, familiar to the audience of the day, ' made him a 
suitable hero for the erotic and elegant court-plays of this type. 
In conformity with the old legend, both the plays exhibit 
Udayana as the hero, Vasantaka his jester, Vasavadatta 
as his chief queen, and Kancanamala as her principal attendant. 
The two heroines, fiagarika and Aranyaka, both for the time 
being so named from the peculiar circumstance of their rescue 
from the sea and the forest, are indeed not traceable in the 
legend, but in their conception and presentation, they afford 
unmistakable parallelism throughout. It is true that the charac- 
ters of the hero and the chief members of his entourage are, in 
a large measure, fixed by tradition, but the main action of the 
two plays centres respectively round the two heroines, who being 
independent of the legend, could have been developed, not only 
with originality but also as characters more definitely distin- 
guished from each other; and it is certainly not praiseworthy to 
create them as replicas with only slight variations. The 
incidents of the two plays, again, are almost the same in 
general outline, even to the repetition of similar situations, 3 
and are such as one would normally expect in a comedy of court-life, 
of which the earliest example is found in Kalidasa's Mdlnvikdgni- 
mitra. They consist of the lighc-hearted love-intrigue of the 
king with a lowly maiden of unknown status, their secret meetings 
chiefly through the help of the jester and the damsel's friend, the 
jealousy of the queen (cosi fan ttittc !) and her final acceptance of the 

1 ]ol<e han ca vatsaraj<i~caritum, Piolo^t.e stanza. 

2 Eg., t!ie gnrden-scene in act ii; the avowal of herjine's hopeless 
passion; her attempt at suicide; the intrigue which leads, though differently workd 
out, to the meeting of the lovers; the imprisonment of the jester and the heroine 
by the queen and their subsequent release; the reicue of the heroine by the 
king, supposed in each case to be at the point of death ; recognition of the heroine as a princew 
and cousin and acceptance by 'the queen aa a co-wife; announcement of the victory of the 
roy%l army at the e^nd, and general rejoicing, etc. Some of the common tricks of plot are 
utilised, e.g., the device of the picture, monkey escaping from its cage and causing distur- 
bance (elephant in Kalidasa and tiger in Bhavabhuti), rescue of the heroine by the hero 
from a danger, the Vaaantotsava and Kaumudl-mahotsava, etc. Ou some of these motifs 
in Indian story-telling and drama, see L. H. Gray in WZKM, XVfll, 1901, pp. 48 f. 



situation in the last t^ct, when the maiden is discovered as her 
long-lost cousin. In the invention of the plot, therefore, there 
is perhaps not much opportunity, nor is there much inclination, 
of showing fertility of imagination, which is confined chiefly to the 
detailed management of the intrigue. Indeed, the extraordinary 
similarity of plot-development, however neatly conducted, as 
well as tht3 close resemblance of the characters, make the one play 
almost a repetition or recast of the other. The only original 
fenture of the Priyadarsika is the effective introduction of a play 
within a play (Garbharikn) as an integral part of the action, and 
its interruption (as in Hamlet) brought on by its vivid reality. 
But, barring this interesting episode, the Priyadar6ika, by the 
side of the Ratnavati, which is undoubtedly the better play in 
every respect, is almost superfluous for having hardly any 
striking incident, character or idea which does not possess its 
counterpart in its twin-play. 

The subject, form and inspiration of the Nagananda is 
different. It is a five-act Nataka, a more serious drama, on the 
obviously Buddhist legend of the self-sacrifice of Jimutavahana, 
which is told in the two Sanskrit versions of the Brhatkatha, 
in a longer and a shorter version in both. 1 The Prologue, however, 
speaks of a Vidyadhara Jataka in which the story is found 
related, but of this work we know nothing. Although the 
Buddha is invoked in the benedictory stanza, Gauri is introduced 
as a deus ex machina, and purely Buddhistic traits are not 
prominent, except in its central theme of universal benevolence. 2 
The benedictory stanza, however, in introducing an erotic note, 
probably anticipates the general tenor of the play, which brings 

1 Katha-sarit-s. xxii. 16-257, xc. 3-201; Brhatltatha-m. iv. 50-108, ix. '2. 77C-930. A 
comparative analysis is given in introd. to P. V. Ramanujasvami's ed. of the Nagananda 
(Madras 1932). On the legend see F. D. K. Boach, De Legende van Jimutavahana in de 
Sanskrit Litteratur, Leiden 1914 (on Harsa's treatment of the legend, p. 90 f). 

8 From Ban* we learn o! Harsa's intention to become a Buddhist, while Yuan 
Chwang's testimony makes him a Buddhist in old age. Harsa himself pays homage to Siva 
(jn Prtya* and Ratna ) and to the Buddha alike ; and it is probab'e that as a king he prac- 
tised religious toleration. 

HARSA 259 

n an erotic sub-plot on the hero's love for MalayavatI and 
sonnects it with the main quietistic theme of his heroic sacrifice. 
The episode is a simpler story of love and marriage without much 
.ntrigue, but it occupies the first three acts almost entirely, and 
ts tone and treatment show considerable likeness to those of the 
tuthor's other two erotic plays, not only in isolated passages, but also 
n particular situations. 1 The result is that the first three acts are 
almost completely separated from the last two, which depict the 
Jifferent theme of supreme charity, and on which the chief 
interest of the drama rests. The one part is not made essential 
to the development of the other ; there is thus no unity of action 
3r balance between the two isolated parts. It is difficult to 
reconcile also the picture of Jimutavahana's unlimited benevo- 
lence and resolution in the face of death, which draws Garuda's 
praise of him as the Bodhisattva himself, but during which he 
does not even think of MalayavatI, with the unnecessary and 
unrelated preliminary account of him as the conventional love- 
sick hero, or of MalayavatI as the simple, sentimental heroine. 
It is not his love which inspires his great act of sacrifice, nor is 
it rendered difficult by the memory of that love ; and an inex- 
plicable hiatus is, therefore^ felt when one passes from the one 
episode to the other. The plot of the drama does not also appear 
to be as carefully developed as in the other two plays. 2 The 
denouement is also weak ; for the great sacrifice suggests a real 
tragedy, and the divine intervention of Gauii to turn it into a 
comedy and reward of virtue is an unconvincing artificial device. 
The free use of the supernatural is, of course, not out of place in 
the atmosphere of the drama, of which the hero is a Vidyadhara 
and the heroine is a Siddha, but it offers too easy a solution of the 

1 Such as the meeting of the lovers in the sandal-bower by the help of the jester, the 
ove-sickneos of the heroine, and her attempt to commit suicide, etc. 

2 E.g. tbe somewhat unnatural want of curiosity on the part of the lovers to kcow each 
>ther's identity, even when they had friends at band who might have, enlightened them, or 
3 ten their ignorance of each other, is inexplicable; the heroine's melodramatic attempt 
jo commit suicide (repeatel from the other i\\o plays) is not sufficiently motived hero; the 
sxit of Sankhacu<ja and his mother in act iv is poorly managed, etc. 


final tragic complication and destroys the grandeur of its appeal. 
Nor can Harsa be said to succeed in the comic interlude, 
apparently introduced for the sake of contrast in the third act ; 
for the Vidusaka, who is lively enough in the other two plays, is 
here stupid and vulgar, 1 and the Vita a poor sot and sensualist, 
while the whole passage is a paltry farce or burlesque, rather 
than a necessary picture of character. Nevertheless, these 
defects need not altogether negate the real merits of the drama. 
However strange the setting, the emodiment in Jimutavahana of 
the high and difficult ideal of self-sacrificing magnanimity, in a 
romantic atmosphere of pathos and poetry, is not altogether 

If the Ndgananda had ended with the first three acts, it 
would have, in spite of a few scattered references to the hero's 
generosity, passed for a short comedy of love like the Priyadartika 
and the Ratnavall. While Harsa's power of depicting sentiments 
other than love is acknowledged, it is clear that he excels in his 
three plays in his fine gift of delineating the pretty sentiment in 
pretty environment. Sometimes perhaps he deals with it in a 
maudlin and melodramatic fashion, but he shows himself capable 
of treating it with purity and tenderness. His works throughout 
show unmistakable traces of the influence of the greater drama- 
tists, 2 but he is a clever borrower, who catches not a little of 
the inspiration and power of phrasing of his predecessors; and 
perhaps in light plays of the type he favoured, elegance was more 
expected than originality. In the Ratnavall, if not to the same 

1 This late instance of a degraded buffoon does Lot -upportS cbujler's suggestion (JAOS, 
XX, J899, p. 39'.) f) th;>t the character is a relic of earlier popular plays, allowing as 
it docs full opportunity (which the author a-i :i Buddhist U supposed to luve availed himself) 
of ridiculing the Brahmans. 

* Apart from the general outline of the theme, which muat have been popularised by 
KaUdasa's Malavika', we find reminiscences of Kalidasa in the incident of the bees torment- 
ing the heroine, the 1 eroine's ruse to delay her departure from the sight of her lover, the pait 
played by the jester in bringing about the meeting of the lovers, his talk in sleep revealing 
the secret, tho imprisonment of the heroine, the use of magic spells to counteract the effect 
cf poison, etc. The influence of Svapna-vfoavadatta is not clearly traceable, unleas the fire- 
cer e brought about by magic is taken as being suggested by the fire-incident at Lavanaka. 

HARSA 261 

degree in his other two plays, Harsa is great in lightness, 
vivacity and sureness of tender touch, although in brilliancy, 
depth of feeling and real pathos he falls below some of his 
fellow-dramatists. It is remarkable that even if his Priyadartika 
and Ratndvall inexplicably choose the same theme and pattern, 
they are still separately enjoyable as pretty little plays of 
light-hearted love, effectively devised and executed. If Kalidasa 
supplied the pattern; Harsa has undoubtedly improved upon it in 
his own way, and succeeded in establishing the comedy of court- 
intrigue as a distinct type in Sanskrit drama. The situations are 
prepared with practised skill ; they are admirably conducted, 
adorned, but not over-embellished, with poetical sentiment and 
expression, and furnished with living characters and affecting 
incidents ; it is no wonder that the Sanskrit dramaturgists quote 
the Ratndvall, which is undoubtedly Harsn's masterpiece, as the 
standard of a well-knit play. Harsa is graceful, fluent and 
perspicuous; he possesses a quaint and dainty, if not original 
and soaring, fancy, and a gift of \\riting idyllic and romantic 
poetry, with frequent felicities of expression and musical 
cadence. 1 Essentially a decorative artist, he embroiders a 
commonplace tale with fine arabesques, and furnishes feasts of 
colour and sound by pictures of a spring or moonlight festival 
and of refined luxuries and enjoyments of the court-life of bis day. 
But considering his contemporary and protege, Bana, his style is 
markedly simple, and his prose is unadorned ; the emotional and 
descriptive comments in the poetical stanzas are neither profuse 
nor inappropriate. The types of conquering heroes and frail 
heroines he draws may not possess great appeal, but they have a 
tender arid attractive quality of romance, and their creator does 
not lack insight into human nature, nor the power of developing 

1 Ii is notable that unlike earlier dramatist^ Harna IB decidedly food of employing long 
and elaborate metres, bis favourite metres beiDji; tlie Sirdulavikridita and tbe Sragdhara, 
which occur quite frequently in all his plays; but his versification is smooth and tuneful. The 
Prakrits employed are mainly Sauraseni and Mabarastrl; they are easy and elegant but offer 
no special features. 


character by action. There is, however, a certain trimness about 
Harsa's plays, a mastery of technique which is too smooth and 
unmodulated. They give the impression of a remarkably fine, but 
even, writer, seldom rising far above or sinking much below a uni- 
form level of excellence. Apart from the importance attached to 
him as a royal author and patron of authors, Harsa claims place 
among the worthies of this period, not so much by any transcen- 
dent genius, but by a pleasing gift of delicate workmanship, 
conscious but not too studied, assured but not too ingenious. 

d. Visakhadatta 

Of Visakhadatta, author of the Mudra-raksasa, 1 we know 
only what he himself tells us in the Prologue to his play, 
namely, that he was son of Maharaja Bbaskaradatta (or accord- 
ing to most manuscripts, Prthu) and grandson of Samanta 
Vatesvaradatta ; and in spite of all the conjectures and theories 
that have centred round his dale and personality, we shall probably 
never know anything more. In the concluding stanza (vii. 21), 
which, however, is not an integral part of the play but is meant 
to be spoken by the actor and hence called Bharata-vakya, there 
is a mention of a king Candragupta, whose kingdom is said to 
be troubled (udoejyamana) by the Mlecchas. As a reference to 
Candragupta Maurya, who is the subject of the play itself, would 
be unusual in the Bharata-vakya, it is taken as the eulogy of a 
reigning sovereign ; and some scholars are inclined to see 2 in 

1 Ed. K. T. Telung, with comm. (written 1713 A. D.) of Dhundiraja, Bomb. Skt. Ser. 
1684 f7th ed. 1928); ed. A. Hillebrandt, Breslau 1912; ed. K. H. Dhruva, 2nd ed., Poon-a 1923, 
with English tra. All -the known commentaries are of comparatively modern date; for an 
account see Dhruva, iutrod., p. xix. On the MSS material and an edition of the Prakrit verses, 
see Hillebrandt, Zur Kritik des Mudra-raksasa in JVGGTF,1905, pp. 429-53. No good Bng, 
trs., except Wilson's free rendering in Select Specimens vol. ii ; French trs. by V. Henry, 
Paris 1888 j German trs. by L. Fritze, -Leipzig 1883. The Canakya-kathd of Kavi-nartaka 
(ed. S. C. Law, Cal. Orient. Ser. 1921), like Dhuncjiraja's summary printed in Telang's ed , is 
a r&mme* of tie traditional story, although the work pretends to derive its material from a 
prose original, and gives some new points of interest. 

1 K. P. Jayaswal in IA, XL1I, 1913, pp. 265-67; Sten Konow in 1A, XL1IJ, 1914, 
p. 66 f. and Ind. Drama, p. 70 f. ; Hillebrandt in ZDM G t XXXIX, 1885, p. 130 f, LX1X, 


Vigakhadatta a contemporary of Candragupta II of the Gupta 
dynasty (cir. 375-413), and apparently of Kalidasa. But since 
the readings Dantivarman, Rantivarman or Avantivarman, in- 
stead of Candragupta, are also found, no finality is reached on the 
question. The first two of these names cannot be traced any- 
where ; but since two Avantivarmans are known, the author's 
patron is identified sometimes with the Maukhari king Avanti- 
varman, who flourished in the 7th century 1 and married his son 
Grahavarman to Harsavardhana's sister Rajyasri, and sometimes 
with Avantivarman, king of Kashmir, who reigned in the middle 
of the 9th century. 2 From flillebrandt's critical edition of the 
text, however, it appears that the variant Avantivarman is most 

1915, p. 363 (4th century AD.); S. Srikantha Sastri in IHQ, VII, 1931, pp. 163-69. 
The difficulty, however, of tak<ng the term mleccha in the sense of the Hunas (even 
though they are mentioned as allies of Malayaketu in v. 11) and of explaining the word 
mlvejyamana satisfactorily iu terms of the known facts of Candragapta's time should 
be recognised ; while Jayaswal's identification of Pravartaka and Malayaketu are wholly 
fanciful. J. Charpentier, in JRAS 9 1M8, p. 580 f. (also IHQ, VII, 1931, p. 629), would, 
however, take Vi^akbadatta to be a contemporary of one of the last Guptas, probably 
Samudragupta, but he confesses inability to adduce much historical or literary evidence in 
support of his theory. Ragliu vii. 56 and Situ i. 47 are adduced as parallels to the stanza in 
question (vii. 21), as well as Raghu* vii 43 to Mudra* v. '23; but it is admitted that such 
literary coincinences by themselves are of not much use in fixing a date. The pn sumption 
of Konow and Charpentier that the drama must have been composed before the destruction of 
Pataliputr a, because the town plays an important part in it, should not be pressed too 
far in view of the conventional geography which we often find in Sanskrit imaginative 
writings.- -The assumption iJASB, 1930, pp. 241-45) that the drama, is a Bengal work is 
purely gratui'ous and conjectural. 

1 K. H. Dhruva in WZKM, V. p. 25 f (2nd half of the 6th century); V. J. Antani in 
7/1, LI, 1922, pp. 49-51. Dhruva rightly points out thnt the \\ay in which the king of Kashmir 

s mentioned in the play itself would preclude any reference to Avantivarman of Kashmir. 

2 Telang, intro'l. to his ed. ; Jacobi in WZKM,1I, pp. 212-16. Jacob! adduces also 
passages which Ratnakara, who flourished in Kashmir at about the same time, is said to 
have imitated from the Mudra ; but Dhruva points out that the passages are not conclusive. 
By astronomical calculation, again, Jacobi would identify the eclipse mentioned in the play 
as having occurred on December 2, 860 A.D., when, he holdi, Sura, Avantivarraan's 
minister, had the play performed. Some passages froir, Mudra occurs, with some variation, 
in other works, e.g., Mudra 9 ii. 13 = Tantrdkhyayika i. 46; ii. 18=-Bbartrhari's IVttt 27 and 
Paflcatantra etc., but there is nothing to suggest that VisHkhadatta could not have utilised 
the floating stock of Niti verges, and such passages are of doubtful use in questions of 
chronology. See also Hertel in ZDMG, LXX, 1916, pp. 133-42 ; Keith in JRAS, 1909, 
p, 146 (9tb century). 


probably a later emendation ; and if this is so, the theories based 
upon the name lose much of their force. In view of these 
difficulties, the problem must still be regarded as unsolved ; but 
there is nothing to prevent Visakhadatta from belonging to the 
older group of dramatists who succeeded Kalidasa, either as a 
younger contemporary, or at some period anterior to the 9th 
century A.D. 1 

Whatever may be its exact date, the Mndra-raksasa is un- 
doubtedly one of the great Sanskrit dramas. In theme, style and 
treatment, however, it stands apart from the normal Sanskrit 
play, even to a greater degree than the Mrcchakatika. It is pirt- 
ly for its originality that its merits have been even less 
appreciated than those of Sudraka's play by orthodox Sanskrit 
theorists. It breaks away from the banal subject of love, having 
only one minor female character ; and poetic flights are naturally 
circumscribed by its more matter-of-fact interest. If the 
Mrcchakatika gives a literary form to the bourgeois drama, its 
theme is still an affecting story of love and suffering, and politics 
merely forms its background ; the Mndra-raksasa, on the other 
hind, is a drama of purely political intrigue, in which resolute 
action in various forms constitutes the exclusive theme. The 
action, however, does not involve actual fight, war or bloodshed. 2 
There is enough martial spirit, but there is no fondness for violent 
situations, no craving for fantastic adventures and no taste for 
indecorous afrightments. The action takes the form essentially 
of a conflict of wills, or of a game of skill, in which the interest 
is made to depend on the plots and counterplots of two rival 
politicians. One may wonder if such a subject is enough to 
absorb the mind of the audience, but the action of the play 
never flags, the characters are drawn admirably to support it, 

1 The earliest quotation from the work occurs in Datarupaka (10th century A.D.). 

2 Tb antecedent incidents of tha drama are not indeed bloodless, for we are told of the 
extirpiatioD of the Nan las and of tl>e murders of Sarvarthasiddhi and Pravartaka, but in the 
drama itself Canakys's policy ia directed rather towards preventing the shedding of 


and the diction is appropriate in its directness, force and clarity. 
The Pratijna-yauyandharayana is also another drama of political 
intrigue, but the plotting in it centres round the romantic legend 
of Udayana's love for Vasavadatta, both of whom do not make 
their appearance indeed, but of whom we hear a great deal 
throughout the play. The Mudra-raksasa is unique in avoiding 
not only the erotic feeling but also the erotic atmosphere. 
It is a drama without a heroine. There is nothing sugges- 
tive of tenderness or domestic virtues, no claim to prettiness of 
romance, no great respect even for religion and morality. 
Politics is represented as a hard game for men; the virtues are 
of a sterner kind ; and if conduct, glorified by the name of deplo- 
macy, is explained by expediency, its crookedness is redeemed 
by a high sense of duty, resolute fidelity to a cause, and unselfish 
devotion. There is a small scene between Candanadasa and his 
family indicative of affection, but it is of no great importance to 
the development of the plot, and there is nothing of sentimental- 
ity in it even in the face of death. 

Perhaps the suggestion is correct 1 that the Brhatkatha of 
Gunadhya could not have been the source 2 of the plot of the 
Mndra-rahsasa; for the events narrated there might have 
supplied the frame (as Yisaldiadatta did not certainly invent the 
tale)," but the main intrigue appears to be the work of the 
dramatist himself. It is also not necessary to assume that the 
drama is historical in all its details, or to see in the working out 

1 ^peyer, Studies about the Kathasaritrtgara, p. 54 ; the drama is held here to belong 

to the 4th ceutury A.U . , 

2 Tn the printed text of the Datorupato <i. 01) we have the statement in Dbamka s 
Vrtti: brhatkatha-mulam mudraraksasam, followed by the quotation of two; but 
these verses a'reobvioasly interpolated from Ksemendra's Bfhattothtonanian (h. 216,217) 
See G C. 0. Haaa, Int.od. to Datarfipaka (New York, 1 1 J12), p. xxm. 

3 The *tory of the downfall of the Nandas and the rise of the Mauryas occurs also in 
Heo*o.ndr.' Paritis^paivan and other works, and is probably traditional. The deU.U of 
C'anakya's intrigue, and even the name of Raksasa, ure not found in these sources. The verj 
name of the drama, derived from the signet ring (Mudrft) which plays an important fart in 
the winning over of Baksasa, as well as the employment of the old idea ol a token in this 

particular foim, appeara to be entire y Vitekhad-.tuT* own. 
34 1343B 


of a political plot a tendencious piece of literature, which may 
be conveniently referred to this or that period of Indian political 
history. It is unquestionable that Candragupta and Canakya are 
historical personages, and so are possibly Raksasa and Sarvartha- 
siddhi, although these latter names do not occur in the traditional 
accounts we possess ; but how far they are historically or pur- 
posively presented is a different question; at least, the occurrence 
of historical facts or persons does not justify the designation of a 
historical drama to the work of art, which must necessarily owe 
a great deal to the author's imagination in the ingenious matur- 
ing of the story. 

The main theme of the drama is the reconciliation of 
Raksasa, the faithful minister of the fallen dynasty of the 
Nandas, by that traditional master of statecraft, Canakya, who 
wants to win him over, knowing his ability and honesty, into 
the service of Candragupta Maun a, who has been established on 
the throne by Canakya's cleverness and his own bravery. To 
the crafty machinations of Canakya are inseparably linked the 
almost co-extensive plots of Raksasa, acting in alliance with 
Malayaketu, son of Candragupta' s former ally, now alienated by 
the treacherous murder of his father by Canakya's agents. The 
detailed development of the plot of the drama is complicated, but 
perspicuous; ingenious, but not unnecessarily encumbered. The 
first act plunges at once into the story and gives us a glimpse 
into Canakya's resolution and his deeply laid schemes, cunningly 
devised and committed to properly selected agents, which set the 
entire plot in motion. The second act shows, by way of con- 
trast, the counter- schemes of Raksasa and the character of his 
agents, as \\ell as the traps of Canakya into which he unsuspect- 
ingly walks. The next act is an ably constructed dramatic 
scene of a pretended but finely carried out open quarrel between 
Candragupta and Canakya, meant as a ruse to entrap Raksasa 
further into the belief that Canakya has fallen from royal favour. 
In the ne^t three acts the plot thickens and moves rapidly, .draw- 
ing the net more and more firmly round Bak^asa, and ending in 

Vl^IKHAt>ATTA 267 

Malayaketu's suspicion of the treachery of his own friends, 
execution of the allied Mleccha kings, and dismissal of Raksasa, 
who is left to soliloquise deeply on the heart-breaking failure of 
his aims and efforts, and on the fate of his friend Candanadasa 
who is led to death. The misguided but valiant and pathetic 
struggle of Raksasa perhaps suggests tragedy as the natural end, 
by making him a victim of the misunderstandings created by 
Canakya ; but the intrigue is developed into a happy end, not 
in a forced or illogical manner, but by a skilful handling of the 
incidents, which are made to bring about the denouement in the 
natural way. Canakya's intention from the beginning is not 
tragedy but a happy consummation. He makes, therefore, an 
accurate estimate of both the strength and weakness of his 
opponent's character and prepares his scheme accordingly. 
Canakya knows that the only way to subdue Raksasa and impel 
him to a supreme act of sacrifice is through an attack on his 
dearly loved friends, especially Candanadasa, whose deep affection 
and spirit of sacrifice for Raksasa is equally great. In the last 
act, cornered and alone, Raksasa is ultimately compelled to accept, 
with dignity, the yoke which he never intended to bear, not to 
save his own life, but to protect those of Candanadasa and his 
friends. The acts are complete in themselves, but they are not 
detached ; no situation is forced or developed unnaturally ; all 
incidents, characters, dialogues and designs are skilfully made to 
converge towards the denouement, not in casual strokes, but in 
sustained grasp ; and there is no other drama in Sanskrit which 
achieves organic unity of action and inevitableness with greater 
and more complete effect. 

In characterisation, ViSakhadatta fully realises the value of 
contrast, which brings distinctive traits into vivid relief ; and one 
of the interesting features of his delineation is that most of his 
characters are dual portraits effectively contrasted, but not made 
schematically symmetrical. Both anakja and Rakasa are 
astute politicians, bold, resourceful and unscrupulous, but both 
are unselfish and unflinchingly devoted, from different motives, to 


their respective cause. Any possible triviality or sordidness of 
the plot is redeemed by the purity of their motives and by the 
great things which are at stake. Both are admirable as excellent 
foils to each other ; Canakya is clear-headed, self-confident and 
vigilant, while Raksasa is soft, impulsive and blundering ; the 
one is secretive, distrustful and unsparing, while the other is 
frank, amiable and generous; the one is feared, while the other 
is loved by his friends and followers ; the hard glitter of the one 
shows off the pliable gentleness of the other. The motive of 
Canakya's unbending energy is not any affectionate sentiment 
for Candragupta, for in his methodical mind there is no room of 
tender feelings ; Raksasa, on the other hand, is moved by a 
high sense of duty and steadfast loyalty, which draws the un- 
willing admiration even of his political adversary. It is precisely 
Raksasa's noble qualities which prompt Canakya to go to the 
length of elaborate schemes to win him over ; and it is precisely 
these noble qualities which lead ultimately to his downfall. He 
is made a victim of his own virtues ; and the pathos of the 
situation lies not in an unequal fight so much as in the softer 
features of his character. Raksasa is, of course, also given to 
intrigue, but he does not live and breathe in intrigue as Canakya 
does. There is, however, no feeling in Canakya's strategy ; there 
is too much of it in Raksasa's. Although sharp and relentless, 
Canakya is indeed not a monster, and whatever one may think 
of his deception, impersonation and forgery, one admires his 
cool and ingenious plotting ; but our sympathy is irresistibly 
drawn towards the pity of Raksasa's stumbling and foredoomed 
failure, his noble bitterness on the break up of his hopes and 
efforts, his lofty desire to sacrifice himself for his friend, and his 
dignified but pathetic submission. The same contrast is seen in 
the presentation of Candragupta and Malayaketu. Although they 
are pawns in the game, they are yet not mere puppets in the 
hands of the rival statesmen/ Though low-born and ambit bus, 
the Maurya is a sovereign of dignity and strength of character, 
well trained, capable and having entire faith in bis preceptor and 


minister, Canakya ; but the capricious young mountaineer, moved 
as he is by filial love, is conceited, weak and foolishly stubborn, 
and has his confidence and mistrust equally misplaced. It is clear 
that the characters of this drama are not fair spirits from the far- 
off and unstained wonderland of fancy, nor are they abstract 
embodiments of perfect goodness or incredible evil. Even the 
minor characters, none of whom is fortuitous or uninotived, are 
moulded skilfully with a natural blend, of good and evil. The 
secret agents of Canakya, Bhagurayana and Siddharthaka, faith- 
fully carry out their commissions, not with spontaneous en- 
thusiasm, but from a feeling of awe and meek submission ; they 
are, however, finely discriminated as individuals, for while the 
one bates his work and feels secret compunctions, the conscience 
of the other is more accommodating. Tiaksasa's agents, the 
disguised Viradhagupta and the honest Sakatadasa, on the other 
hand, are moved by a sincere attachment to Kaksasa and honest 
desire to serve. One of the most touching minor characters of 
the play is Candanadasa, the head ol the guild of lapidaries, 
whose affection i'or Raksasa is as sincere as that of Indu^arman 
for Canakya, but it is strong and undefiled enough to rise to the 
height of facing death for the sake of friendship and to be used, 
for that very reason, as a lever by Canakya to play upon the 
magnanimous weakness of Eaksasa. It is true that the charac- 
ters of the drama are not always of a pleasant type, but they 
have a consistent individuality, and are drawn as sharply and 
coloured as diversely as the shady characters in the Mrcchakatika. 
The mastery of technique which the \\ork betrays is indeed 
considerable, but there is no aggressive display of technical skill 
or any wooden conformity, so far as we know, to fixed modes 
and models. Nor is there any weakness for the commonplace 
extravagances of poetic diction affected by some of his con- 
temporaries. Vigakhadatta's style is limpid, forcible and 
fluent ; and he appears to be fully aware ol the futility of a 
laboured and heavily embellished diction for the manly strain 
of sentiment and vigorous development of character which his 


drama wants to attain. His metrical skill 1 and literary use 
of Prakrits 2 are considerable, but in no way conspicuous. 
Perhaps as a stylist he does not claim a high rank with his 
great compeers, and yet some of his stanzas stand out among 
the loftiest passages in Sanskrit literature. We do not indeed 
find in him the poetic imagination and artistic vigilance of 
Kalidasa, the dainty and delicate manner of Harsa, the humour, 
pathos and kindliness of Sudraka, the fire and energy of Bhatta 
Narayana, or the earnest and tearful tenderness of Bhavabhuti ; 
but there can be no doubt that his style and diction suit his 
subject, and, in ail essentials, he is no meaner artist. He uses 
his images, similes and embellishments, with considerable skill 
and moderation ; and, if he does not indulge profusely in ela- 
borate poetical and descriptive passages, it is because his sense 
of dramatic propriety recoils from them. The soliloquy of 
Rakgasa is indeed long, but it is not longer than some of the 
soliloquies in Hamlet. It shows, however, that the author was 
not incapable of truly emotional outbursts ; and the paucity of 
citations from his work in later rhetorical and anthological works 
need not prove that his drama is devoid of poetical or emotional 
touches. The kind of poetry and sentiment, which are normally 
favoured, are perhaps not to be found here ; but in easy and 
subdued elegance of its own poetry and sentiment, the work is 
certainly successful. Visakhadatta never thinks less of his 
subject and more of himself, so as to make his work a convenient 
vehicle for the display of his literary ingenuities ; nor does he 
pitch his voice too high and exhaust himself by the violence 
of his effort. He has the gift of projecting himself into the 
personality of his characters ; his dialogues and stanzas have 

1 The metres moat employed (besides the Sloka) in order of frequency are Sardula- 
vikricjita, SragdharS, Vasantatilaka and Sikbarini. Other metres are sporadic, but no rare 
kind is attempted. 

8 The usual Prakrits are SaurasenI and Maharasfcri, but Magadbi also occurs. 
Hillebrandt rightly points out that, as in $ahuntala, Mjcchakatika and other earlier plays 
there is no justification in this case for the assumption that SaurasenJ was exclusively 
employed for the prose. 


the dramatic quality necessary for rapidity and directness of 
action and characterisation ; and if his work is necessarily of a 
somewhat prosaic cast, it still conforms more to the definition of the 
drama as the literature of action than some of the greater Sanskrit 
plays. The only serious defect is that the drama lacks grandeur, 
with a grand subject ; it also lacks pity, with enough scope for real 
pathos. The downfall of a dynasty and fight for an empire are 
concerns only of personal vanity, wounded by personal insult ; they 
are matters of petty plotting. Our moral sense is not satisfied even 
by the good result of placing Candragupta more securely on the 
throne ; and the atmosphere of cold, calculated strategy and spying 
is depressing enough for a really great and noble cause. 1 

e. Bhatta Narayana 

Both Vamana 2 and Anandavardhana 8 cite passages anony- 
mously from the Venl-samhara* of Bhatta Narayana, who must, 

1 Passages from a drama, entitled Devi-candragupta, are quoted seven times in the 
Ndtya-darpana of Ramacandra and Qunacandra (12 century); ed. GOB, Baroda 1929, pp. 71, 
84,86,118,141-42,193,194), and the work is attributed to Vi^akhadeva, who is probably 
identical with our author Vis*akhadatta (whose name, however, does not occur in the anony- 
mous quotations from the Mudra-raksasa). The work has not been recovered, but it probably 
dealt with the story (cf. ^RajaiSekhara, Kdvya-mimdnisd, p. 46) of Kum~tra Candragupta's 
rescue (in the disguise of a woman) of DhruvadevI who had been abducted by a Saka 
prince. This is perhaps the same story as is alluded toby Bana in Harsa.carita (aripure ca 
para-kalatra-kdmukam kdmirii-vea-gupta$ candraguptah $aka-nfpatim atdtayat) ; see I A , LI I, 
1923, pp. 181-84, where this Candragupta is taken to be Candragupta IT of the Gupta dynasty. 
From the citations it appears that the drama extended at least to fhe acts. Abhinavagupta 
also quotes the work, without the name of the author, in his commeLtary OD Bliarata ; BO does 
also Bbo;a in his Srhgdra-prakdsa (see S. K. De in BSOS, IV, 1926, p. 282). Another work of 
ViSakhadeva's, entitled Abhisdnkd vaftcitaka (vandhilaka) is also cited by Abhinavagupta 
and Bhoja. It appears to have been based on another love-legend of Uda\ana, in which 
Padmavati wus back the lost affection of Udayana, who suspects her of having killed liis son, 
by disguising herself as a Sabari and in the r61e of an Abhisarika, uiakin^ her tender mm did 
husband full in l^e with lier again I It is curious that a drama called Pratijfta-cdnaTtya 
on the same theme appears to have been composed by one Bhlma, as we knew from its citation 
also by Abhinavagupta and Bho;'a; apparently it was modelled on ViSakhadatta's play 
(see K. Kamamurthi in JOR, Madras, III, 1929, p. 80). 

2 Kdvydl. iv. 3. 28 - Veni v. 26d. 

3 Dhvan. ted. Kavyamala, 1911) ad ii. 10, pp. 80, 81 = Veni* i. 21, iij. 31 ; Dhvan. ad 
iii. 44, p. 226 = Vent* v. 26. 

4 Ed. J. Grill, Leipzig 1871 ; e i. K. P. Parab, with comrn. of Jagaddhara, N8P, Bombay 
1898, 3rd ed. 1918, Bpglish trs. by Saurindra M, Tagore, Calcutta 1880, 


therefore, belong to a period anterior to 800 A.D. ; and this lower 
limit is confirmed by the fact that the work, along with Harsa's 
Ratnavali, is frequently quoted by -the DaSarupaka, in the last 
quarter of the 10th century, as one of the approved types of the 
Sanskrit drama. Beyond this, nothing definite is known about 
the exact date of the play; and of the author, the Prologue gives 
us the only information that his other name or title was 
Mrgafajalaksman, about the significance of which there has been 
much conjecture but no certainty. The Bengal legend 1 that 
Bhatta Narayana was one of the five Kanyakubja Brabmans who 
were invited by an equally fabulous king Adi^ura of Bengal, 
should be relegated to the realm of fantastic fables which often 
gather round celebrated names. Serious attempts have been 
made to extract history from these legends of genealogists, 2 but 
unless corroborated by independent evidence, these so-called 
traditions of Bengal match-makers and panegyrists of big families 
are hardly of much value for historical purposes, particularly for 
events of comparatively early times. Traces of Pancaratra tenets 8 
are discovered in Veni i. 2-i and iv. 43, 45, but the interpreta- 
tion is far-fetched, while there is no justification for the view 
that the character of Carviika is meant to ridicule directly the 
materialistic doctrine of the reputed philosopher Carvaka. Even 
if these ingenious conjectures are ^ admitted, they are of little 
use for determining the age of the work. 

Barring the epic pieces ascribed to Bhasa, the Venl-sanihara 
is the only surviving work of the earlier group of dramatists, 
which takes valour as its ruling sentiment, but the presentation 
is too formless and rhetorical to be convincing. It attempts in 
six acts to dramatise a well known episode of the Mahabharata, 

1 StenKonow, Ind. Drama, p. 77; discussed also by Gri'lK op. cit. 

s It should be note! that while the historicity of 3djs*ura himself is doubtful, the genea- 
logical works are not agreed among tLumselvei with regard to tne names of the five Bnihmans 
who were invited, the time and motive of their invitation, as well as the r detailed genea- 
logical account. 

8 See Grill, introd. p. xviif and iptrod, to the edition of L, R. Vai4ja and N. R, God*, 
bole, Poona 


but practically goes over the entire epic war; and in subject, 
style and inspiration it differs from contemporary plays. The 
first act depicts Bhima's revengeful pride of power, Draupadi's 
brooding resentment at the ignominious insult heaped on her 
by the Kauravas, as well as failure of Krsna's embassy, which 
makes war inevitable. With this menace of war hovering on 
the horizon, the second act introduces a frivolous and ineffective 
love-episode, censured even by the Sanskrit theorists, between 
Duryodhana and his queen BhanumatI, relates her ominous 
dream, describes a sudden storm symbolical of the coming 
turmoil, and leaves Duryodhana gloating over the insult done to 
DraupadI at his instigation. The next act commences with a 
rather conventional, but loathsome, picture of the horrors of the 
battle-field, described by a couple of demons who feed on human 
flesh and blood, and we learn that most of the Kaurava heroes, 
including Drona, have in the meantime fallen ; but it goes on to 
a finely conceived scene of altercation between the suspicious 
A^vatthaman and the sneering Kama, interrupted by Bhima's 
boastful voice behind the scene. The dramatic possibilities, 
however, of the rivalry between these two Kaurava warriors are 
not at all developed ; the scene, therefore, becomes a lively but an 
uncalled for and unmotived episode. In act iv, we find Duryo- 
dhana wounded in battle and his brother Duh^asana, who had 
insulted DraupadI in public assembly by dragging her by the 
braid of her hair, killed by B'hlma ; but the account, given by 
the Kaurava messenger, Sundaraka, of Kama's death is too long 
and tedious, and serves no dramatic purpose. In the next act, 
the violent and insulting address of Bhima to poor old Dhfta- 
rastra may bJin the best, but it is gratuitous and 
only shows Bhima as a wild, blood-thirsty and boastful bully. 
The last act, in which Duryodhana's death is announced, intro- 
duces a poor comedy of mischief in the midst of all this fury and 
tragedy, through the instrumentality of the disguised demon 
Carvaka, but it is as absurd as it" is unnecessary; and Bhima's 
dragging DraupadI by her hair in mistake is perhaps an w*. 



wittingly ludicrous repetition of her rude treatment by a similar 
method on a former and more serious occasion ! 

The title suggests that the main theme, to which all 
incidents are made to converge, is the satisfaction of Bhima's 
ferocious revenge, celebrated by the killing of the Kaurava 
chiefs and by binding up, with blood-stained hands, the braid 
of Draupadi, which she had sworn to let; down until the wrong 
to her is avenged. The subject is one of primitive savagery, 
but the polish of the drama has nothing primitive in it. There 
is undoubtedly much scope for fury and violence, but since 
violent situations have no sanction, the fury exhausts itself in 
declamatory blustering. There is enough of pathos and horror, 
but the pathos is tiresome and the horror uncouth ; there is 
enough of action, but the action is devoid of dramatic conflict 
or motivation to carry it on with sustained interest; there is 
enough instinct for claptrap stage-effect, but the effect limits 
itself to a series of detached and disjointed scenes of excitement. 
We do not know whether the work chooses to follow faithfully 
the dramaturgic rules which we find elaborated by the theorists, 
or whether the theorists themselves faithfully deduce the rules 
from the model of this work; but the correspondence is 
undoubtedly close and almost slavish. Judged by the conven- 
tional standard, its dramatic merit raay be reckoned very high, 1 
but considered absolutely, it must be admitted that the plot 
is clumsily contrived, the situations are often incongruous, the 
scenes are disconnectedly put together, and the incidents do not 
inevitably grow out of one another. There is also considerable 
narrative digression after the manner of the Kavya. The work 
i r s hardly a unified play, but is rather a panoramic procession of 
a large number of actions and incidents, which have no intrinsic 
unity except that they concern the well-known epic personages 
who appear, no naturally developed sequence except the sequence 

- l But even the Datarupaka and the &ahitya>darpana are unable to find as proper 
illustrations of the Garbha and Vimarfo Saxndhis from the Venl, as from RatndvQli, for 


in which they are found in the Epic. The drama suffers from 
the common mistake of selecting an epic theme, without the 
power of transforming it into a real drama, and the modifications 
introduced for the purpose are hardly effective. The presentation 
is rather that of a vivid form of story-telling, and the author 
might as well have written a Kavya. 

It is true that Bhatta NarSy ana's characterisation of the 
peculiar types of " heroes " is interesting; they are living figures, 
and not mere violently moved marionettes; but, with the 
exception of the cautiously peaceful Yudhisthira and the wisely 
moderate Krsna, the characters are hardly lovable. Bbima has 
fire and energy, and his grandiloquent defiances do credit to the 
rhetorical powers of his creator; but he is a boisterous, 
undisciplined and ferocious savage, and his equally valiant 
brother Arjuna is a worthy second in rant and fury. Draupadf s 
bitterness is well represented, but this is not made the only 
thing for which the brothers fight, and she is herself rather 
crude in her implacable hate and desire for revenge. The 
duplicity of the weak Dbrtarastra is suggested after , the Epic, 
but not properly developed. The sneaky jealousy of Kama and 
the distrustful anger of Agvatthaman offer dramatic opportunities, 
but the figures are made too short-lived in the drama; and the 
vain, selfish and heartless arrogance of Duryodhana is scarcely 
relieved by his irrelevant amorousness befitting a conventional 
love-sick hero. 

There is much good writing and some diffused pathos in 
the w6rk, but since the dramatic construction is poor and the 
epic and narrative details hamper the action and mar the result 
of otherwise able, but unattractive, characterisation, the general 
effect is wholly undramatic. " It is more so, because the diction, 
though polished and powerful, is laboured and generally unsuited 
for dramatic purpose. The author appears to be obsessed with 
the idea that long, high-sounding words and compounds are 
alone capable of imparting force, the so-called Ojas, to a 
composition. The, procedure is sanctioned by the rhetoricians, 


but its excessive employment in Sanskrit and Prakrit prose and 
verse is rightly censured by Anandavardbana, especially with 
reference to dramatic writing. It should be noted, however, 
that the extravagances of grandiose expression and lengthy 
description are not only tedious, but they also indicate that the 
author perhaps conceives his work more as a poetical than a 
dramatic piece. And perhaps it would not be right to judge it 
otherwise. The Vem-samtiara is one of the earliest and best 
examples in Sanskrit of that peculiar kind of half-poetical and 
half-dramatic composition which may be called the declamatory 
drama ; and it shares all the merits and defects of this class of 
work. The defects are perhaps more patent, but they should 
not obscure the merits, which made the work so entertaining 
to the Sanskrit theorists. Even if overdone very often, there is 
considerable power of poetry and passion, vividness of portraiture 
of detached scenes and characters, command of sonorous and 
elevated phrasing, and remarkable skill and sense of rhythm 
in the manipulation; of a variety of metres. 1 The work does 
not indeed pretend to any milder or refiner graces of poetry, 
and the defect of dramatic form and method is almost fatal; 
but it has energy, picturesqueness, and narrative motion. 
These qualities, which are best seen in detached passages, 
if not in the drama a whole, are indeed not negligible, and 
perhaps eminently suit the type of composition affected. If the 
work is neither a well judged nor a well executed dramatisation 
of the epic story, it still attains a certain vigorous accomplish- 
ment and holds its popularity by this power of appeal and excite- 
ment. Notwithstanding these allowances, carefully but not 
grudgingly made, even a generous critic will find it difficult to 
assign a high rank to Bha^ta Narayana, both as a poet and as a 

\ Next to the largest employment of the loka, Bhat^a Narayana favours &ardula- 
vikri(Jita and Sragdhara equally with Sikhariat and Vasantatilaka aa the principal metres of 
his play. His Prakrit with long corr pounds and absence of verse, like that of Bhavabhfiti, is 
apparently modelled on Sanskrit and calls for no special remarks. Normally it is 
Sauraeenl, although Magadh! is also traceajble, 


dramatist. It may be urged that if there is bad drama, there is 
good poetry in his play ; but even in poetry, as in drama, the 
fault which mars Bhatta Narayana's forceful work is that 
it is too often rhetorical in the bad sense, and rhetoric in the 
bad sense is hardly compatible with the best poetry or drama. 

f. Bhavabhuti 

In the earlier group of great dramatists, Bhavabhuti is per- 
haps one of the youngest, but he occupies a very high place, 
which in Indian estimation has been often reckoned as next to 
that of Kalidasa, as the author of three important plays. One of 
these, the Malatl-madhava l gives a fictitious romantic love-story 
of middle class life, and the other two, the Mahavlra-carita 2 and 
the Uttara-rama-carita,* deal respectively with the earlier and the 
later history of Kama and derive their theme from the Ramayana. 
Unlike most of his contemporaries and predecessors, Bhavabhuti 
is not entirely reticent about himself. In the Prologues to his 

1 Ed. R. G. Bhandarkar, with comra. of Jagaddhara, Bombay Skt. Ser., 1905 ; ed. 
M R. Telang, with cotnms. of Jagaddhara, Tripurari (i-vii) and Nanyadeva (viii-x), NSP, 
Bombay 1926. No Eng. trs., except Wilson *s free rendering in Select Specimen, ii ; French 
tr. by G. Strehly, Paris 1885; German trs. by Ludwig Fritze, Leipzig 1884. One of the 
earliest editions is that of C. Lassen, Bonn 1882. 

* The earlier editions of Trithen (.London 1848* and Anundaram Borooach (Calcutta 
1877) are superseded by the critical ed., based on important manuscripts, by Todar Mall, 
Oxford Univ. Press, 1928 (Punjab Univ. Publ.). Also ed. T. R. Ratnara Aiyar and K. P. 
Parab, with comm. of Viraraghava, NSP, 3rd. ed. Bombay 1910 (1st ed. 1892). Eng. trs. by 
John Piekford, London 1871. 

3 Ed, T. R. Bafcnaxn Aiyar and K. P. Parab, with comm. of Vlraraghava, NSP, Bombay 
1906 (1st ed. 1899) ; ed. with comm. of Ramacandra Budbendra, Madras 1882; ed. P. V. Kane, 
with comm. of Ghanas*yama (1st half of the 18th century; Journal of Orient. Research f 
Madras, iii, 1929, pp. 281-43), Bombay 1921 ; ed. C. Sankarama Sastri, with comm. of 
Narayana, Balamanorama Press, Madras 1932 ; ed. S. K. Belvalkar (Text only), Poona 1921 ; 
ed. S. K. Balvalkar, vol. i, containing Trs. and Introd. only, Harvard Orient. Ser., 
Cambridge Mss. 1915. Also Bog. trs. by 0. H. Tawney, Calcutta 1871 ; French trs. by 
Fe*lix Neve, Bruxellts and Paris 1880, and by P. d'Alheim, Bois.le-roi 1906. Besides Sten 
Konow and M. Schuyler cited above, see Schuyler in JAOS, XXV, 1904, pp. 189f for fuller 


three plays he gives us some autobiographical details. 1 We are 
told that he belonged to a pious and learned Brahman family of 
the Ka&^apa Gotra,)who followed and taught the Taittiriya 
branch of the Black l r ajurveda, duly maintained the Five Fires, 
performed Soma sacrifices, bore the surname of Udumbara and 
lived in Padmapura, probably in Vidarbha (the Berars). 
Bhavabhuti was fifth in descent from one who was called Maha- 
kavi (Great Poet) and who performed the Vajapeya sacrifice ; 
and his grandfather was Bhatta Gopala, his father Nilakajjtha 
andjris .mother JatuJiarm. The poet himself was given the title 
of j3rlkantha, but commentators imagine that Bhavabhuti was 
also a title he won as a poet blessed with luck or the holy ashes 
(Bhuti) of Siva (Bhava). His preceptor was a pious and learned 
ascetic, named appropriately Jfianamdhi. 2 He studied the Vedas 
and Upanisads, the Samkhya and Yoga, and mastered various 
branches of learning, including grammar, rhetoric and logic ; a 
statement which it is not impossible to corroborate from the 
knowledge displayed in his works. 8 Although a scholar and 
given occasionally to a love of display, Bhavabhuti seldom pushes 
his scholarship to the verge of pedantry. He was essentially a 
poet ; and like his predecessor Bana, he had apparently a rich 
and varied experience of life, and stood, as he himself tells us, in 
friendly relation with actors, into whose hand he gave his 
plays ; but this fact need not justify the efforts that have been 
made to trace evidence of revision of his plays for stage- 
purposes. All his plays were enacted at the fair of Lord 

1 The account, scantiest in U tiara* and fullest in Mahavlra , is summarised and dis- 
cussed by BhandarWr, Todar Mall and Belvalkar in the works cited above. 

8 The colophon to act iii of a manuscript of Malati-madhava (see S. P. Pandit's introd. 
to Gaufavaho, pp. ccv, et seq.) assigns the play to a pupil of Kumarila, while the colophon to 
act iv gives the name of this pupil as Umbekacarya. But undue weight need not be attached 
to the testimony of a single manuscript to prove that these acts are substitutions, or that 
Bhavabhuti is identical with the well known pupil and cnmmentator of Kurnaiila, although 
chronology is not incompatible and knowledge of Mimainsa not impossible to infer from the 

3 On Bhavabhuti's scholarship, see Keith in JRAS t 1914, p. 719f and Todar Mall, 
pp. wxxvi, iliii-xliv; Peterson in JBRAS, XVIII, 1891, p. 1091, 


Kalapriyanatha, usually identified with Mahakala, whose famous 
shrine at Ujjayini is mentioned by Kalidasa and Bana. 

Although, like Bana, Bhavabhuti has given us an inter- 
esting account of himself and his family, yet, unlike Bana, 
be says nothing about the time when he lived. He shows 
familiarity with court-life, but does not refer to any royal favour. 
On the contrary, he is evidently distressed by the lack of con- 
temporary appreciation of his works, and declares, with defiant 
but charming egotism, that there will some day arise a kindred 
spirit to do justice to his genius, for, ' time is boundless and the 
world is wide/ The inference is possible that he had to struggle 
hard for fame and fortune, although we do not know how 
far the bliss of conjugal love, which he idealises in his 
writings, proved a solace to him in reality. 1 In view of 
all this, it is surprising to find that the Kashmirian 
chronicler Kahlana 2 mentions Bhavabhuti, along with Vakpati- 
raja, as having been patronised by king Ya^ovarman of Kanya- 
kubja. Obviously, this Vakpatiraja is the author of the 
enormous, but unfinished, Prakrit poem Gaudavaha, 8 which 
glorifies Ya^ovarman and in which the poet acknowledges 
indebtedness to Bhavabhuti in eulogistic terms. As this poem 
is presumed to have been composed about 736 A.D. before 
Yasovarman's defeat and humiliation by king Lalitaditya of 
Kashmir, 4 it is inferred that Bhavabhuti flourished, if not 
actually in the court of Ya^ovarman, at least during his reign, 
in the closing years of the 7th or the first quarter of the 8th 
century. This date agrees with what is known of our poet's 
chronological relations with other writers. He is certainly 

1 The view that Bhavabhuti is lural, as Kalidasa is urban, is not justified by his works 

2 Raja-tarangiriit iv. 144. 

3 ed. 8. P. Pandit, Bombay Skt. Ser., 1887, stanza 799 (the same reference in th< 
revised edition by N. B. Utgikar, Poona 1927). 

4 The exact date is a matter of dispute ; see Stein's note on the point in his translation 
of the R&ja-tarahgini t introd. sec. 85; also the works of Bfcandarkar, Pandit and 

cited above, 


later than Kalidasa, with whose writings he is familiar, 1 and 
apparently also than Bana, who does not mention him. The 
earliest writer to eulogise Bhavabhuti (besides Vakpatiraja) Is 
Raja&khara, 2 and the earliest work in which anonymous quota- 
tions from bis works occur is the Kavyalamkara * of Vamana ; 
both these references set the lower limit of his date at the last 
quarter of the jitlucentury. 

V (The plot of the Mdlati-madhava is based on the time-worn 
theme of love triumphant over many obstacles, but we turn 
pleasantly from royal courts to a more plebeian atmosphere and 
find greater individuality of presentation. Bhavabhuti prides 
himself (i.4) upon the ingenuity of his plot ; to a certain extent, 
this is justifiable.) But the general outline of the central story 
and some of the striking incidents and episodes have been 
industriously traced to the two Kashmirian adaptations of the 
Brhatkatha, respectively made by Ksemendra 4 and Somadeva, 6 
with the suggestion that Bhavabhuti derived them, or at least 
hints of them, from Gunadhya's lost work. But even granting 
that the coincidences 6 are not accidental, it should be recognised 
that the evolving of the plot as a whole in ten acts by a dexterous 
combination of varied motifs and situations is apparently the 
poet's own, fThe central interest is made to rest, not upon 
one love-story, but upon two parallel love-stories, skilfully 
blended together and crowded with such exciting and unexpected 

* See Todar Mall, pp. xxxix-xliii, and Belvalkar, p. xl. 
8 Bala-rSm&yana, i. 16. 

K&vya 9 i. 2. 12=Mafrat?tra c i.64; iv.3.6. = tfttara i. 88. For other citations in 
rhetorical and-anthological literature, see Todar Mall, p. xxix; but, curiously enough, Todar 
Mall omits these two citations of V&mana. 

* xi. 9-88 (Madirftvatl) ; iii.218-30 ; v.100-163 (A6okadatta). 

xiii.1.17-215 (Madiravatfl ; v.2 (Aiokadatta) ; xviii.2 (Madanamafijarl and Khanda- 

1 Such as, impersonation and marriage in disguise* meeting of lovers in a temple, 
rescue from a wild animal (the conventional elephant being replaced by the tiger), offering 
of human flesh and seeking the aid of ghosts in the cemetery, attempted immolation by a 
magician i abduction and rescue of the heroine, etc. But some of the motifs belong to the 
floating stock-in-trade of story-telling. 


turn of incidents as is not normally found in such stories. 
There is also some real comic relief a rare thing in Bhava- 
bhuti and a free use of the terrible, horrible and supernatural 
sentiments. The main plot moves round the love of Madhava, a 
young student and Malati, daughter of a cabinet minister ; it is 
thwarted by the interposition of a powerful suitor in Nandana, 
nominated by the king ; but it ends with achievement of success, 
partly through accidents and partly through the diplomacy of a 
shrewd, resourceful and kind-hearted Buddhist nun, 1 Kamandaki, 
a friend and class-mate of the fathers of Madhava and Malati. 
The by-plot, which is obviously meant to be a parallel as well 
as a contrast, is concerned vuth the love of Makaranda and 
Madayantika ; it is linked to the main plot by presenting Mada- 
yantikft as a sister of Malati's rival suitor Nandana, and by 
making Madhava's friend Makaranda fall in love with her. The 
interweaving of the plot and the by-plot is complicated and 
diveisified by the comic episode of the pretended marriage of 
Nandana to Makaranda disguised as Malati, as well ^s by two 
sensational escapes of Malati from violent death. Makaranda 1 s 
impersonation, which also involves Madayantika's mistaking 
him for Malati and confessing her owp love to him unawares, 
ending in their elopement, is made parallel to the imposition on 
Malati, with a similar result, by Madhava's taking the place of 
Malati's companion Lavangika ; while Madhava's valiant rescue 
of Malati from the clutches of a Kapalika becomes, in the same 
way, a natural counterpart of Makaranda's heroic, but somewhat 
conventional, rescue of Madayantika from the claws of a tiger. 

There can be no doubt that the dramatist knows the value 
'of contrast, but he also knows y the value of suspense ; and in 

1 The Buddhist nun as a go-between, or more euphemistically a matchmaker, is a 
familiar figure in Indian story-telling, and occurs in the Datakumara-carita, where she 
helps Apaharavarroan to meet Kamamafijari, Eatnftvati to regain her husband Balabbadra, 
and Kalabaka^tha to evolve the scheme of winning NimbavatI ; but in this drama she is a 
much more dignified person. Even if she freely discusses matters of love a la Kama-test, 
the is a sincere, wise and loving woman, who promotes the love of the young couples partly 
cnt of affection for them and partly out of the memory of her old friendship with their fathers. 


spite of the length of the drama, the interest is sustained by 
skilful inventiveness and by a naturally developed interplay of 
two parallel, but contrasted, plots. "^The defect, however, is 
that the subsidiary plot and its chief characters tend to over- 
shadow the main plot and its hero and heroine. This happens 
partly on account of the important part played by the daring 
and resourceful Makaranda, by whose side the love-sick and 
melodramatic Madbava pales into the conventional hero, and 
partly by the extremely arresting character of the shrewd and 
lively Madayantika, who similarly surpasses Malati, the shy 
and hesitating official heroine. ( The action^ also, notwithstanding 
a series of exciting incidents, (suffers as a whole from a vital 
weakness in the central conception^ Kamandaki, with her kindly 
scheming, is undoubtedly meant to hold the key-position in the 
drama (the Karya-vidhana, as Kalahamsa says), far greater 
than the role of Friar Laurence in the Romeo and Juliet, or of 
the Parivrajika in Malavikagnimitra; but the action of the 
drama is made to depend more on a series of accidents than on 
her clever diplomacy, it is true that she takes the fullest 
advantage of lucky occurrences, but too many important events 
happen by pure accident to further her design. The tiger- 
episode, which leads to the love of Makaranda and Madayantika, 
is a veritable godsend to Kamandaki, while Malati, twice on 
the verge of death, is saved by the merest chance, as the drama- 
tist himself admits in v. 28. The incidents are, of course, 
dramatically justified, and the element of chance cannot be 
entirely ruled out of a drama, as out of life, but their convenient 
i frequency demands too much from credulity. They are consis- 
tent perhaps with the supernatural atmosphere, in which 
uncanny things might happen ; but they leave the general 
impression that the play moves in an unreal world of folk-tale, 
in which tigers run wild in the streets, ghosts squeak in ceme? 
teries, Kapalikas perform gruesome rites unhindered, maidens 
are abducted with murderous intent, and people adept in 
occult sciences fly through the air with both good and bad 


purposes, but all miraculously resolved into a final harmonious 
effect ! 

^The lack of a sense of proportion is also seen in prolonging 
the play even after it naturally ends with act viii, in which the 
king moved by the valour of Madhava and Makaranda, is disposed 
to pardon them and acknowledge the marriage.) The episodes 
of the two abductions of MalatI hardly arise out of the story, 
but they are added to satisfy the sensational craving for the 
terrible and the gruesome, and to fill the whole of act ix and a part 
of act x with the grief and lamentation of the hapless Madhava, 
separated from his beloved, in the approved manner of a man 
in Viraha. It may be said that the first abduction is meant to 
establish a parallelism by showing that Madhava is no less heroic 
than his friend in the rescue of his own beloved, and that the 
second abduction by Kapalakundala is a natural act of revenge 
for the sla}ing ot Aghoraghnnta ; but these purposes need not 
have been realised by clumsy appendages, involving fortuitous 
coincidences, by the introduction of terrible scenes, which are 
too unreal to inspire real terror, as \\ell as by an unnecessary 
display of poetic sentimentality, modelled obviously on the 
madness of Pururavas in Kalidasa's drama. 

It is clear that, however lively, interesting and original the 
plot-construction of the play is, it lacks restraint, consistency 
and inevitableness. But^a still greater defect lies in Bhava- 
bhuti's tendency to over-emphasise and his inability to stop at 
the right moment, seen in a damaging degree in the highly 
poetical, but unhindered, sentimental passages.) In his attempt 
to evoke 'tragic pathos, Bhavabhuti, with his unhumorous 
disposition, makes his hero faint too often, and this happens 
even at a time when, he should rush to save his friend's life in 
danger. The love-agony frequently becomes prolonged, unmanly 
|and unconvincing. The exuberant descriptive and emotional 
stanzas and elaborate prose speeches, 1 the high. sounding phrases 

J E.g., the long Prakrit passages in acts iii and vii, the description of the cremation- 
ground at nigbt in act v, and the forest scene in act ix. 


and lengthy compounds (albeit not so formidable as they look) 
had perhaps a special relish, as much for the poet as for his 
audience. Some of the passages are highly poetical and pic- 
turesque ; but they indicate an expansiveness and lack of modera- 
tion, which are fatal to dramatic movement and propriety ; and the 
fact that some of these stanzas are repeated in the other two 
plays gives the impression that the poet had them ready-made 
to be utilised whenever an opportunity presents itself. Much 
of the talk of love and grief, therefore, becomes unreal and tends 
to overwhelm action and characterisation. 

L Nevertheless, the Malatl-madhava possesses, in many res- 
pects, a unique interest in the history of the Sanskrit drama, 
not only as an attractive picture of certain aspects of middle-class 
life, but also because of its genuine poetic quality,) It is really an 
interesting story cast in a loose dramatic form, rather than an 
accomplished drama, but inventiveness and movement are not 
wanting. (There is little individuality in its chief hero and 
heroine, who are typically sentimental lovers, making a lot 
of fuss about themselves, but Makaranda and Madayantika, as 
well as Kamandaki, show that the author's power of characterisa- 
tion i not of a mean order J There is indeed a great deal of 
melodrama, of which it is difficult for a romantic play to steer 
clear entirely, but which often mars its pathetic and dramatic 
effect; and the gratuitous introduction of supernatural and 
horrible scenes may be pertinently questioned. It must, however, 
be admitted that there is a great deal of real poetry and passion in 
Bhavabhuti's picture of youthful love, which reaches its most 
mature and mellow expression in his C/tiara-rama-carita. If the 
Malati-madhava is one of his earliest works, 1 the faults are 
those of youth and inexperience; but Bhavabhuti, even in 
this sentimental play, is far more serious than most light- 
hearted Sanskrit poets, and the intense poetic quality of his 

1 The Mahdvira-carita is often taken to be Bhavabhuti's earliest work, but it is 
difficult to dogmatise on the question of its priority to the Malati-madhava. The 
Uttara-carita is unquestionably the most mature work, as the poet himself indicates. 


erotic stanzas, with their music, 1 colouring and fervour, 
relieves their banality. The picture of MalatI, tossed between 
love and duty and reluctantly yielding to a stolen marriage, 
or the description of the first dawning of the passion in 
Madhava and its effect on his youthful mind, is in the best 
manner of the poet and is much superior to what one finds 
normally in Sanskrit sentimental literature. The key-note of 
this weird but passionate love-story is perhaps given in the 
works of Makaranda (i. 17) when he says that the potent will of 
love wanders unobstructed in this world, youth_Js_suacpiible, 
and every_jweet_and charming thing shakes off the firmness of 
the mind. It is a study of the poetic possibilities of the 
undisciplined passion of youth ; but no other Sanskrit poet, well 
versed as he is in the delineation of such sentiment, has been 
able to present it with finer charm and more genuine emotional 

If the Malatl-madhava is defective in plot-construction, 
much improvement is seen in this respect in the Mahavira-carita] 
whichf reveals fa clearer conception of dramatic technique and 


1 In this play Bhavabhuti employs a large number of metres, o,bout twenty -five, with 
considerable skill, including rarer metres like Dandaka (v. 20; fifty-four syllables in eacb 
foot), Nardataka (v. 31, ix. 18) and Aparavaktra (ix. 23). The Sloka is not frequent (occurring 
about 14 times), but other chief metres, in their order of frequency, are Vasantatilaka, 
Sftrdulavikridita, SikharinI, Malini, Mandakranta and HarinI, the shorter metres being 
generally u?ed for softer sentiments and the longer for the heroic and the awe-inspiring. 
There are eleven Aryas, to which Kalidasa also shows partiality. In the Mahavira-carita 
Bhavabhuti uses twenty different metres, in which the Sloka appears in about one-third of 
the total number of stanzas, the Sardulavikrlcjita, Vasantatilaka, Sikharini, Sragdhara, 
Mandakranta and Upajati coming next in order of frequency ; the only unusual metre is 
Malyabhara found in a single stanza, while the irya occurs only thrice. The 
Uttara-carita has the same ruetfea as above, but here the Sloka easily leads and the 
Sikharini comes next to it, after which comes the Vasantatilaka and Sardiilavikri<Jita, 
while the Sragdhara, Drutavilambita and Manjubhasini are sporadic here, as in Mdlati* 
It is noteworthy that there is not a single Prakrit verse in all the three plays. Bhavabhuti's 
Prakrit in prose passages, with their long compounds (which remind one of Vakpatiraja's 
laboured verse), is obviously influenced by Sanskrit usage, but it is sparingly employed in the 
Mahavtra. His vocabulary, both in SanskriUnd Prakrit, has a tendency to prolixity, but it 
is extensive and g3nerally adequate, while his poetic style is fully consistent with his poetical 
imagery and feeling. 


workmanship, even if it is feebler in characterisation and in the 
literary quality of its poetical stanzas. It dramatises in seven 
acts l the early history of Rfitna, beginning a little before his 
marriage and ending with his return from Lanka and coronation} 
The theme is found ready-made, but since the epic story is in 
the form of a narrative, containing a large number of episodes, 
incidents and characters, a mere panoramic reproduction of a 
series of pictures is hardly enough for a drama proper. The 
problem before the dramatist is not only to select such incidents 
and characters as are necessary and appropriate, but also where 
such selection is difficult, to modify and adjust them in such a 
way as to make the different units well arranged with adequate 
dramatic motive and unity of action, (In making daring, but 
judicious, changes even in a well-known and accepted story, 
Bhavabhuti gives evidence not only of his boldness and power 
of ingenious invention, but also of his sense of dramatic cons- 
truction. Accordingly, the whole action is conceived as a -feud 
of Ravana against Rama. The seed of dramatic conflict and 
movement is found in Havana's discomfiture as a suitor by the 
rejection of his messenger and by the betrothal of Sita to Rama 
at the Svayamvara. Havana's desire for revenge at this insult to 
his pride and valour is further inflamed by death of Tataka, 
Subahu and other demons at the hands of Rama ; and the action 
is set in motion by the deplomacy of Havana's valiant minister 
Malyavat, which includes the crafty instigation by him of 

1 Unfortunately, the genuineness of the last two acts, namely, the sixth and the 
seventh, and the concluding part of the fifth act is not beyond question. Bhavabhuti's 
authorship of the text up to v. 46 alone is proved by the agreement of all manuscripts and 
printed editions ; but for the rest we have (t) the Vulgate text, fonnd in most North Indian 
manuscripts and generally printed in most editions, (ii) the text of Subrahmanya, found 
in South Indian manuscripts, (printed in Ratnam Aiyar's edition as such) and 
(tit) the text of VinSyak* (printed in Todar Mall's ed.), which agrees with the Vulgate in 
having the same text for acts vi and vii, but differs from it, as well as from Subrahmanya f B 
text, in the portion from v. 46 to the end of that act. None of these supplementary texts 
probably represents Bhavabhuti's own text, which is perhaps lost. For a discussion of the 
whole question see Todar Mall's introduction, reviewed in detail by 3. K. De in IA, LIX, 
1930, pp. 13-18. 


Paragurama and the despatch of Surpanakha in the clever dis- 
guise of the nurse Manthara, the second episode ingeniously 
exonerating Kaikeyl and supplying a motive for Surpanakha's 
later conduct. The first scheme fails, the second succeeds, after 
which the abduction of Slta becomes easy. In order to frustrate 
Kama's efforts, there is then the intrigue of Malyavat with 
Valin, which serves the twofold purpose of exculpating the 
dubious conduct of Rama and avoiding the unseemly fraternal 
quarrel between Valin and Sugriva. But Valin dies ; and on 
the failure of diplomacy, nothing remains but the use of force, 
leading to the denouement of Havana's defeat and death, rescue 
of Slta and coronation of Rama. The changes, therefore, in the 
original story are many, but they are justified by the necessity of 
evolving a well-knit and consistent plot ; and the action is deve- 
loped mainly on the basis of a conflict between - strategy and 
straightforwardness. Whatever may be said about its adequacy, 
the attempt to motivate the episodes shows considerable 
dramatic sense and skill.) 

But the plot fails to impress us as a whole. The central 
conception of the dramatic conflict is weak. The strategy of 
Malyavat fails, not because it is met with an equally ingenious 
counter-strategy, not even because Rama has superior strength 
and resources, but because it is destined that Rama, with virtue 
in his favour, must ultimately win. On the side of villainy, 
Bhavabhuti was doubtless permitted to take as much liberty 
with the original story as he wished, but perhaps he could 
not do so with equal impunity on the side of virtue ; the 
entire dramatic conflict, therefore, becomes unconvincing. 
The plot also suffers from Bhavabhuti's usual lack of restraint 
and of the sense of proportion, which is so glaring in his 
Malatl-madhava, from a greater feebleness of characterisation 
and from a heavier and more uncouth style and diction, 
As in his Uttara-carita, Rama here is human and normal, 
but he is conceived as the ideal hero of valour, nobility and 
chivalry, and the human traits of his character (as also those 


of Slta, who is here presented as fidelity incarnate) are not made 
as appealing as they are in Bhavabhuti's more mature play. 
Mjilyavat is shrewd and resourceful and has a sense of better 
things, but he falls far below Canakya or Kaksasa. Para^u- 
rama's great prowess is balanced by his furious temper ; Valin's 
magnanimity by his susceptibility to bad advice ; Havana's 
qualities of body and mind by his inclination to thoughtless 
passion ; but none of these characters rises above mediocrity, 
and there is hardly any development of character by action, 
hardly any fine colouring or diversity of shading. Bhavabhuti also 
appears to be less successful in the heroic than in the softer 
sentiments ; it is a kind of flaunting, but really meek and book- 
ish, heroism that he paints even in his Rarna. Moreover, 
action is often substituted by narration of events in long and 
tedious speeches. The Bharata-episode at the end of act iv and 
the scene between Valin and Sugriva are indeed ably executed, 
but Malyavat's self-revelation is carried to an unnecessary and 
tiresome length. Like the lamentation of Madhava, spread over 
an act and a half, the wordy warfare between Parasurama, on 
the one hand, and Janaka, Dasaratha, Rama and their friends 
on the other, is dragged tediously through two acts. All such 
passages reveal the author's multifarious knowledge and rhetori- 
cal power, but' they also show a distinct desire for parade and 
tend to hamper reality and rapidity of action, as well as effective- 
ness of characterisation. In all this, Bhavabhuti may have been 
carried away by convention, but temperamentally he appears to 
be too prone to over-elaboration by means of description and 
declamation ; and even if his language in this play is often 
vigorous and adequate, it lacks his usual ease and grace. 

Even if still deficient in action, for which the theme hardly 
affords much scope ^(t he Uttara-rama-carita shows a much greater 
command of dramatic technique and characterisation. 1 It is un- 
doubtedly Bhavabhuti's masterpiece, the product, as the poet 

1 A detailed appreciative study of Bbavabhuti's dramatic art and technique will t> 
found in Belyalkar's introduction to the play, pp, IxxvMxxxv. 


himself declares, of his mature genius, and has deservedly earned 
the high reputation of having equalled the dramatic masterpiece 
of Kalidasa. It depicts in seven acts the later history of Rama 
extending from the exile of SIta to the final reunion ; and 
Bhavabhuti's literary characteristics may be studied to the best 
advantage in this work, which reaches a high level as a drama 
but which undoubtedly ranks higher for its intense poetic quality. 
Bhavabhuti derives his theme from the Ramayana, but to suit 
his dramatic purpose he does not, as in his earlier Rama-drama, 
hesitate to depart in many points from his authoritative epic 
original. The conception, for instance, of the picture-gallery 
scene, derived probably from a hint supplied by Kalidasa 
(Raghu xiv. 25), and of the invisible presence of Slta in 
a spirit-form during Rama's visit to Pancavati, of Rama's 
meeting with Vasanti and confession, the fight between Lava and 
Candraketu, the visit of Vasistha and others to Valmlki's hermi- 
tage, and the enactment of a miniature play or masque on 
Rama's later history composed by Valmiki, are skilful details 
which are invented for the proper development of his dramatic 
theme, as well as for the suitable expression of his poetic powers. 
Here again, Bhavabhuti's principal problem is not the creation 
but the adequate motivation of an already accepted story. 
While not monotonously adhering to his original, he accepts for 
his particutar dramatic purpose the epic outlines of a half- 
mythical and half-human legend of bygone days, which had 
already taken its hold on the popular imagination by its pathos 
and poetry, but he reshapes it freely with appropriate romantic 
and poetical situations, which bring out all the ideal and drama- 
tic implications of a well known story. In taking up the theme 
of conjugal love as a form of pure, tender and spiritual affection, 
ripening into an abiding passion, Bbavabbuti must have 
realised that its beauty and charm could be best brought out by 
avoiding the uncongenial realism of contemporary life and going 
back to the poetry and idealism of olden days. It was not his 
purpose to draw the figures on. bis canvas on the generous 



heroic scale of the Epic ; but he wanted to add to the ancient 
tale an intensity of human feeling, which should transform an 
old-world legend into one of everyday experience, the story of 
high ideals into one of vivid reality. 

In this drama Bhavabhuti idealises conjugal love through the 
chastening influence of sorrow, and he does this in a way which 
is unparalleled in Sanskrit, or perhaps in any literature/) There 
are indeed some charming pictures of domestic happiness in 
Indian literature ; but the causes, both social and religious, 
which lowered women in public estimation by depriving them 
of their early freedom and dignity, naturally hindered the evolu- 
tion of a free conjugal relation. It is conceivable that the larger 
and more heterogenous group comprising the family in ancient 
India may have also hampered its growth ; for a girl left her 
father's home to enter the home, not of her husband, but of her 
father-in-law, and the husband is often merely one of the factors 
of the big family. Wedded love was indeed highly prized, but 
ordinary marriages were perhaps often prompted by motives of 
convenience, among which must be reckoned the necessity of 
having a son for religious purposes ; and self-choice of husband 
was almost entirely confined to the Epics, being forbidden by the 
customary Smrtis, even if permitted by the Kama-gastra. The 
Agokan edicts, though now and then didactic on family rela- 
tions, are silent on conjugal life. Buddhism brought greater 
freedom to women j but the Epics, as well as the Dharma- 
$5stras, are full of utilitarian precepts not merely priestly 
generalisations regarding marriage, and domestic happiness is 
still summed up in the loyalty of a fruitful, patient and thrifty 
wife. Moreover, the existence of polygamy, which was perhaps 
the Dharraa more of the higher classes than of the people in 
general, rendered the position of the wife difficult and sometimes 
Jess than real. When, like queen Dbarim, she finds herself 
treated by her husband with scant grace and deserted for a 
younger rival, it becomes useless for her to show her temper and 
jealousy like JravatI ; she can, if ^he is shrewd and discreet, 


only say pathetically : na me eso maccharassa kalo ( ? this is not 
for me a time for jealousy '), and all that is possible for her to 
do is to make the best of a bad job by falling back upon her own 
sense of dignity and pride. The author of the Mrcchakatika 
discreetly keeps Carudatta's wife in the background ; on the 
very rare occasions in which she does appear, we have just a sad 
and dignified picture, in which her gentleness and generosity 
are not feigned indeed but are apparently virtues made of helpless 

It is natural, therefore, that even from antiquity Indian 
opinion represents the god of love as different from the deities 
who preside over marriage and fertility. No doubt, restrictions 
placed on the physical gratification of love, except in marriage, 
are due not only to moral and social necessity, but they also 
indicate a tendency which harmonises with the biological law 
that mating is the final cause of love. But in a society where 
mating was also a religious duty and where conjugal relation was 
moulded by a peculiar social evolution, an errant tendency was 
inevitable; and many writers have not hesitated to express a 
startingly heterodox view. There are indeed genuine praises of 
the wife, but one poet, for instance, represents married life as a 
prison-house, and the usual note * is that of the glorification of 
the love- union permitted by Kama-sastra. It is not difficult to 
understand a similar attitude, occasionally, on the part of the 
wife. Apart from the numberless tales of naughty and cunning 
wife's intrigues in Sanskrit folk-tale, a more refined sentiment 
is expressed by one woman-poet who is impatient with the perfect 
spouse, who has all the virtues of a stage-hero, but none of a 
lover, which alone can make her happiness perfect. Free and 
continuous courtship is thus recognised as a stimulus of per- 
manent love. Married love can remain unspoiled by time and 
familiarity and retain its romance and beauty only where there 
is enough of that idealism which can make such continuous 
courtship possible and redeem it from the debasing contact of 
the littleness of life's daily experience. In such a discouraging 


atmosphere, where the tendency to take the marriage-vow 
lightly was not uncommon, Bhavabhuti had the courage to 
represent conjugal love as a serious and abiding human passion, 
as a blend of sex-feeling, parent-i'eeling and comradeship, or as 
expressed in the words of the wise Karnandaki (vi. 18) : " Know, 
ray dear children, that to a wife her husband and to a husband 
his lawful wife, are, each to each, the dearest of friends, jhe 
sum-total of relationships, tbg_completeness of desire f the perfec- 
tion of treasures,. even life itself/* The implications, both real 
and ideal, of such love, are best brought out, in the idea of our 
poet, not by an invented plot, nor by a story based on the narrow 
realism of actual life, but by the idealism, pathos and poetry of an 
intensely human legend of the past, round which a hundred 
romantic associations have already gathered. 

(Bhavabhuti's Rama and Slta are from the beginning man 
and woman of more strenuous and deeper experience than 
Du^yanta and his woodland love. In the opening act, which has 
been praised so often and which strikes the keynote of the drama, 
the newly crowned king of Ayodhya with bis beloved spouse 
and his ever faithful brother is looking over pictures which recall 
the dear memory of their past sorrow. This scene, which is 
made the occasion for the tender #nd deep attachment of Rama 
and Slta to show itself, also heightens by contrast the grief of 
separation which immediately follows. There is a fine note of 
tragic irony not only in Rama's assurance that such a separation 
as they had suffered would never happen again, in Laksmana's 
inadvertent allusion to the fire-ordeal and Rama's instant declara- 
tion of his disbelief in baseless rumours, but also in Sita's 
passionate clinging to the memories of past joy and sorrow on the 
verge of a still more cruel fate. The blow comes just at a 
moment when the tired, timid and confiding Sita falls asleep 
on the arms of her husband, who is lost in his own thoughts of 
love. When the cup of happiness, full to the brim, was raised 
to his lips it was dashed off from Rama's hand ; and one can 
understand the sentimental breakdown which immediately follows 


in the conflict between his love and his stern sense of kingly 
duty. With the responsibilities of the state newly laid on his 
shoulders, Rama is perhaps more self-exacting than is right or 
just to himself ^and his beloved; but having abandoned the 
faithful and dear wife,, who was his constant companion ever since 
childhood, his suffering knows no bounds. Both his royal and 
personal pride is deeply wounded by the thought that such an 
unthinkable stain should attach to the purity of his great love and 
to the purity of the royal name he bears.) 

(The scene of the next two acts is laid in the old familiar 
surroundings of Dandaka and PancavatI, which Rama revisits. 
Twelve years have elapsed ; his grief has mellowed down ; but be 
is still loyal and devoted to the memory of his banished wife. The 
sorrow, which has become deep-seated, is made alive with the 
recollection of their early experience of married love in these 
forests, where even in exile they had been happy. The situation 
is dramatically heightened by making the pale, sorrowing but 
resigned Sita appear in a spirit-form,^ unseen by mortals, and 
become an unwilling, but happy, listener to the confessions which 
her husband makes unknowingly to Vasanti of his great love and 
fidelity. Sita's resentment is real and reasonable, and she is still 
mystified as to why Rama abandoned her. She comes on the 
scene with despair and resignation in her heart, but it is not for 
her to sit in judgment on his conduct. She appears as the true 
woman and loving wife Which she has not ceased to be, and is 
willing to be convinced. Unknown to each other, the recon- 
ciliation of hearts is now complete; and with an admirable 
delicacy of touch the dramatist describes her gradual, but 
generous, surrender to the proof that, though harsh, he deeply 
loves her and has suffered no less. iftVhen Vasanti, who cannot 
yet take kindly to Rama, reproves him on his heartless act to 
his wife in a half-finished, but bitter, speech (iii. 26) and 
denounces him in her righteous wrath, her pitiless words 
aggravate his grief ; but the unseen Sita, with a characteristic 
want of logic but with the true instinct of a loving heart, 


now defends her husband and resents all disparagement from 
outside. (The denouement of reunion i only a logical develop- 
ment of this scene ; and the recognition scene in act iv in which 
Bhavabhuti, like Kalidasa, represents the offspring as the crown 
of wedded love, forms a natural psychological climax. By remov- 
ing the inevitable tragedy of the original story, Bhavabhuti runs 
the risk of weakening the artistic effect of his drama, but the 
denouement of happy ending is not here a mere observance of 
convention, brought about in a forced way. It is naturally 
developed by rehandling the entire theme and creating new 
situations, and no other conclusion is possible from the poet's 
skilful readjustment of motives and incidents. It is a drama in 
which the tragic climax occurs, with the sorrow and separation, 
at the beginning ; and it requires a considerable mastery of the 
dramatic art to convert it from a real tragedy into a real comedy 
of happiness and reunion. It cannot be said that Bhavabhuti 
does not succeed. / 

[Bhavabhuti praises himself for his " mastery of speech" 
and claims merit for felicity and richness of expression as 
well as for depth of meaning ; and the praise that he arrogates 
for himself is not undeserved. The qualities in which he excels 
are his power of vivid and ' of ten rugged, or even grotesque, 
description, the nobility and earnestness of his conception, a 
genuine emotional tone, and a love for all that is deep and poig- 
nant, as well as grand and awe-inspiring, in life and nature. 
(Contrasted with Kalidasa, however, he lacks polish and fastidious 
technical finish : but, as we have already said, his tendency was 
not towards the ornate and the finical but towards the grotesque 
and the rugged, not towards reserve but towards abandon) This 
would explain Ao a certain extent, why his so-called dramas are 
in reality dramatic poems, and his plot is, at least in his earlier 
plays, a string of incidents or pictures without any real unity. 
Bhavabhuti cannot write in the lighter vein, but takes his subject 
too seriously ; he has no humour, but enough of dramatic irony ; 
he can hardly attain perfect artistic aloofness, but too often 


merges himself in his subject ; he has more feeling than real 

f His Uttara-rama-carita shows indeed considerable dramatic 
skill, but it appeals more as an exceedingly human story of love 
and suffering, steeped in the charm of poetry arid sentiment. 
It is chiefl